Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “A Man Alone”

“A Man Alone”
Written by Gerald Sanford and Michael Piller
Directed by Paul Lynch
Season 1, Episode 3
Production episode 40511-403
Original air date: January 17, 1993
Stardate: 46421.5

Station log: Bashir tries to hit on Dax and crashes and burns rather spectacularly, especially since she already has supper plans with Sisko. Meanwhile, Odo and Quark gossip about various and sundry things, ranging from disquiet in the O’Brien home to Quark’s Bashir-like infatuation with Dax.

Odo recognizes a dabo player as Ibudan, a black marketer he put away for murdering a Cardassian officer who wanted a payoff to look the other way. He’s free now because the Bajoran provisional government doesn’t view killing a Cardassian as much of a crime. Odo tries to kick Ibudan out of Quark’s, which leads to a brawl that Sisko interrupts his meal with Dax to break up. Odo gives him 26 hours to leave the station. Sisko, however, won’t allow Odo to arbitrarily bend the rules; if Ibudan’s been released from prison, he’s free to be on the Promenade.

The O’Briens are having difficulties. Keiko has no purpose on the station—on the Enterprise, she was a botanist and ran the arboretum. But there’s no need for a botanist on the station. She also isn’t entirely thrilled with the notion of raising their daughter on DS9.

Jake approaches Nog. He’s one of the few other kids on the station, and Jake could use a friend. The pair of them release some Garanian bolites in the replimat—tiny bugs that crawl all over someone and change the pigment of their skin—but then are caught by one of Odo’s deputies.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on A Man Alone

While enjoying a massage in one of Quark’s holosuites, Ibudan is stabbed to death. Bashir—after taking another shot at Dax and not even being slowed down by Dax’s insistence that joined Trills are above such things—is summoned to examine Ibudan’s body. The holosuite door was only opened twice, once when he started the program, and one other time presumably when the killer left. Based on that, and the lack of transporter activity, the murderer had to have come in with Ibudan. Sisko orders all ships to remain in dock until further notice while Bashir sweeps for forensic evidence.

Keiko saw Jake and Nog’s practical joke, and is concerned. Kids just roam free on the Promenade, which is dangerous and will lead them into mischief. She goes to Sisko with a proposal to open a school for the children on the station. Sisko gives her whatever she needs, but he can’t compel attendance.

Zayra, who runs the transit aid station, tells Sisko and Kira that Ibudan told him that he feared for his life, that Odo would kill him. Meanwhile, Odo investigates the ship Ibudan came to the station on. He asked for double accommodations, even though he travelled alone, and his calendar’s final entry simply reads: “Odo.” (It isn’t explained why a Bajoran’s schedule on a computer on a Bajoran ship is written in English.) Bashir’s DNA analysis reveals that Ibudan was the only person in the holosuite aside from those who investigated the crime scene.

It’s Odo himself who states the obvious: if Ibudan was the only person present while the program was running, the prime suspect becomes a shapeshifter who could ooze in through the cracks. Odo’s later presence at the crime scene would account for his DNA at the scene either way.

Keiko tries to convince Rom to let Nog enroll in her school, and while she gives a good argument, Rom ultimately doesn’t believe that Nog could learn anything from a human female.

Zayra and some other Bajorans discuss Odo, wondering why he’s still security chief after having that same role under the Cardassians. Quark points out that whatever Odo’s flaws—and Quark has a long list of them—he was no Cardassian sympathizer and he’s no killer. A man in a hood eavesdrops on that conversation, because men in hoods are inherently mysterious and suspenseful and stuff.

At Odo’s request, Bashir checks out Ibudan’s quarters on the ship he came in on. He finds a biological sample container and evidence that Ibudan was conducting a biological experiment of some kind, neither of which one would expect in the cabin of a black marketeer with no scientific background. While Bashir tries to reconstruct it, Sisko—in part due to complaints from the Promenade businesspeople led by Zayra—has relieved Odo of duty, putting Kira and Dax in charge of the investigation. (They have no qualifications whatsoever to perform an investigation, unlike, say, Odo’s deputy chief of security, which he must have one of, since the episode earlier established that he regenerates every 18 hours or so, so someone has to be in charge then, but hey, they are in the opening credits, so sure, let them run it…) Odo is also less than impressed with Sisko’s stated belief that the commander thinks Odo is innocent, since Sisko has only known Odo for five minutes.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on A Man Alone

Returning to his office, Odo finds the place trashed, the word “SHIFTER” scratched into the wall (again inexplicably in English). Quark stops by, thrilled at the news that Odo isn’t in charge anymore. They banter for a bit, with Odo jokingly asking Quark for a job, and Quark informing Odo that Ibudan didn’t make any enemies in prison.

Bashir’s sample is growing exponentially. It appears to have humanoid DNA, but they won’t know for sure until it’s done growing into whatever it is. Sisko asks Dax if she’s free for lunch, but Bashir, whose back is turned, answers, “Yes!” while Dax politely declines. Commander and doctor share a meal in Quark’s, discussing Dax. When Odo enters Quark’s, everyone moves away from him, which disheartens Sisko and Bashir both.

Keiko gets her school set up, though she doesn’t know whether or not it will work out, since Sisko’s the only parent who has given her a firm commitment. O’Brien and Molly come visit, with O’Brien giving her a school bell to ring.

A mob starts to form outside Odo’s office, calling him a freak and a “shifter” (which, I have to say, utterly fails as a racial slur). The hooded guy is part of the mob, but he doesn’t say anything, just watches mysteriously from under his super-mysterious hood. Security guards—both Starfleet and Odo’s own deputies—guard the door and Sisko calls for even more of them, and for them to be armed. The mob start throwing things. Sisko talks them down—and then Bashir and Dax have some new evidence. Both the victim and the fellow in Bashir’s jar are clones of Ibudan. Ibudan himself is still alive, and Odo tracks him to the same ship and same quarters Ibudan had, which is now occupied by the guy in the hood, who is named Lamonay Ess, and whom Odo can find no evidence of prior to his booking passage on the ship. It only takes a moment for Odo to rip his mask off (yes, really) and reveal him to be Ibudan.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on A Man Alone

Ibudan is jailed—killing your own clone is still murder—and the clone Bashir grew in the infirmary is freed to start a new life, er, somehow. Odo goes back to work, albeit with no apologies from anyone in the mob. And Keiko opens her school to four students: Jake, two Bajoran kids, and, to her surprise and delight, Nog.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Triphasic cloning apparently results in genetic drift that is detectable if you know where to look for it, and Bashir does know where to look for it. Because he’s just that awesome.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on A Man Alone

The Sisko is of Bajor: We learn that Sisko’s father is a chef. He talks to Dax about how the elder Sisko used to test out new recipes for his restaurant on his children.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira refuses to believe that Odo is responsible for murdering Ibudan, and objects to Sisko relieving him of duty.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark finds himself in the odd position of defending Odo, while Rom finds himself in the odd position of giving his son an education by a human woman.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on A Man Alone

The slug in your belly: Curzon Dax was Sisko’s mentor, and in many ways his second father. They used to do all kinds of manly things together, from contact sports to picking up women. Sisko is still adjusting to Jadzia but assures her that their friendship will survive the transition to a new host, even though Jadzia knows that it doesn’t always work that way. Sisko at one point admits to Bashir that he doesn’t know how many hosts the Dax symbiont has had.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo disguises himself as a chair in Ibudan’s cabin on the ship.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Bashir continues to hit all over Dax, while Quark admires her from afar as well. Sisko also makes it clear that he has no sexual interest in Dax and the way is clear for Bashir to take his shot. Dax herself deflects Bashir by saying that Trill try to rise above such notions. This has the smell of bullshit being shoveled solely to deflect Bashir’s tiresome pursits, and that smell gets stronger when Sisko starts reminiscing about him and Curzon and the twins….

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on A Man Alone

What happens in the holosuite stays in the holosuite: Dax uses the holosuite for a brain teaser where you try to get a sphere solid via mental calm. She’s been working on it on and off for 140 years, which means it likely goes back at least a couple of hosts. She gets Bashir to try it by way of diverting him from hitting on her, and he fails utterly at it.

Later, Ibudan sets up his own murder in the holosuite.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on A Man Alone

Keep your ears open: “Benjamin, steamed azna would add years to your life.”

“Dax, I don’t want to add years onto my life if I can only eat steamed azna.”

Dax and Sisko having a discussion of diet.

Welcome aboard: Aron Eisenberg and Max Grodenchik return after appearing in “Emissary,” the former as Nog, the latter now established as Nog’s father (and Quark’s brother) Rom. Rosalind Chao as Keiko and Hana Hatae as Molly join Colm Meaney in coming over from The Next Generation to complete the O’Brien family. All four will continue to recur on the show.

Stephen James Carver and Tom Klunis play the real and disguised Ibudan, respectively. Peter Vogt and Edward Laurence Albert play the two Bajorans most interested in lynching Odo; Vogt previously played the Romulan commander in TNG’s “Tin Man,” and will return as the Kradin commandant in Voyager’s “Nemesis.” (Amusingly, none of Vogt’s three characters get names; here, he’s just credited as “Bajoran man.”). This is Albert’s only appearance on the show (there was talk of making Zayra a recurring character), and he creepily reminds me of Edward Winter, who played Colonel Flagg on M*A*S*H….

Trivial matters: This episode was filmed second, but it was decided to air “Past Prologue” second and this third. On the DVDs, the episodes are in aired order, but on Netflix streaming, this episode is second. Go fig’.

Max Grodenchik plays Rom differently from how he’ll play the role moving forward, sounding more like his first Ferengi, Soval on TNG’s “Captain’s Holiday.”

This episode establishes the Jake/Nog friendship that will become a cornerstone of the series. Several scenes involving Jake, Nog, Rom, and Keiko were originally written for “Emissary” (and can be found in J.M. Dillard’s novelization of the episode), but then cut and recycled here by Michael Piller (who wrote both scripts).

One of the items on Ibudan’s travel itinerary is the Alderaan Spaceport, a reference to Leia Organa’s homeworld in the Star Wars universe.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on A Man Alone

Odo gives Ibudan 26 hours to leave the station, the first indication that a Bajoran day is two hours longer than an Earth day. He also mentions that he must revert to his natural liquid state to regenerate every 18 hours.

Zayra is named after Zayra Cabot, the assistant to TNG’s co-executive producer Jeri Taylor.

Walk with the Prophets: “Shapeshifting freak!” I really dislike this episode for two reasons.

The first is summed up in Sisko’s log entry at the end, when the clone has “gained consciousness and began a new life.” Say WHAT??????? That’s it? Bashir just grew a person in the infirmary, and he’s being tossed out into the world just like that? The implications of this are staggering, and they’re just fobbed off in a log entry. That’s horrible.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on A Man Alone

Far worse, though, is the destruction of the character of Keiko O’Brien. Bajor is a planet that’s recovering after a brutal occupation. There’s an ecosystem that probably needs rebuilding. And the best they can come up with for Keiko to do is become a friggin’ schoolmarm? Seriously? On TNG, Keiko was a viable, interesting character. On DS9, she’s reduced to The Complaining Wife and is also thrust into a role she herself admits she’s ill-suited to. It’s insulting to the character, it’s insulting to Rosalind Chao (an excellent actor who deserves better than to have 90% of her dialogue be complaining), and it’s insulting to the profession of teaching, as the script assumes that anyone can teach if they just have a room to do it in. After all, she’s a woman, and women teach, right?

That’s not the only example of creepy sexism in the episode, though it’s the most obvious. We also have Odo’s out-of-left-field tirade about why he doesn’t “couple,” talking about how men always “compromise” by capitulating to their nagging women. Leaving aside the fact that Odo isn’t even male by any obvious definition (his natural state is a puddle of goo), this attitude is the sort of nonsense I’d expect from the original series, which at least had the excuse of 1960s cultural stereotypes.

And then there’s Bashir’s dogged pursuit of Dax, which is only three episodes old and already feeling like stalking. Sisko’s giving Bashir permission to pursue her is noticeably absent any consideration for how she feels about it.

The mystery itself is perfunctory, with all the tiresome beats hit, including the need to relieve the investigator in charge and everyone complaining about it, even though that sort of thing would be standard procedure and everyone involved would know that. And for something that would become such a vital part of the show, the genesis of the Jake/Nog friendship is beyond lame. They go from introductions to practical jokes in no time flat. (I did like the fact that both Sisko and Rom had the same reaction to their meeting, with Sisko admonishing Jake to stay away from the Ferengi boy, and Rom making the same admonition to Nog about the human boy.)

On top of that, the resolution to the mystery is just absurd. He grew a clone and killed it? And nobody noticed that two Ibudans walked into the holosuite? And then Odo unmasks him like it’s a Scooby-Doo episode. (“I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for that meddling Starfleet doctor!”)

There are moments here and there—the conversation between Sisko and Dax at the beginning is a good one, likewise Sisko reminiscing about Curzon to Bashir, and Rene Auberjonois’s performance is superb—but ultimately, the episode just fails on almost every level.


Warp factor rating: 2

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be appearing on a panel on the 50th anniversary of Iron Man alongside comics writers Denny O’Neil, Matt Fraction, Stuart Moore, Marie Javins, and moderator Danny Fingeroth on the Comic Book Roundtable at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Art on Wednesday the 1st of May at 7pm. He’ll also be appearing on Destinies: The Voice of Science Fiction on WUSB-FM on Friday the 3rd of May at 11.30pm.


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