Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Alternate”

“The Alternate”
Written by Jim Trombetta and Bill Dial
Directed by David Carson
Season 2, Episode 12
Production episode 40512-432
Original air date: January 9, 1994
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Quark is trying to sell the vacuum-desiccated remains of the great Ferengi Plegg—except, as Odo gleefully reveals to Quark, Plegg is still alive. Quark insists he’s the victim here, having been sold fake Plegg.

Before the conversation can continue, Dr. Mora Pol—the Bajoran scientist who “raised” Odo—enters the bar. It’s a tense reunion, as Odo isn’t really all that happy to see Mora. It doesn’t help that Mora starts in with all sorts of patronizing comments and annoying questions (“Haven’t quite managed the ears yet, have you?”). While Odo reluctantly admits that he misses the work they did together, though he doesn’t miss the atmosphere of Mora’s lab in the slightest.

A Bajoran science probe has discovered DNA patterns on a planet near the wormhole in the Gamma Quadrant that are similar to Odo’s. Mora has come to the station to request a runabout to investigate further.

Sisko approves, sending Mora, Odo, Dax, and another Bajoran scientist, Dr. Weld, through the wormhole. Mora tells Dax about Odo’s early days (Odo’s attempts to contribute to the conversation are, at the same time, encouraged verbally by Mora, but also discouraged by his constant interruptions and corrections.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Alternate

They beam down to the planet, into a set of ruins. There’s a monolith in the center, the only part that’s intact, with some markings. Odo doesn’t recognize it, but Dax transports it back to the runabout. Weld finds a biological sample that may be related to Odo, which he puts in a sample case. An earthquake then hits, the tremors releasing some gas from underground incapacitating everyone save for Odo. They return to the station, where Mora, Dax, and Weld are kept—the two Bajorans are unconscious from the gas, though Dax is doing better.

O’Brien has had to put the biological sample in a larger container, as it keeps multiplying.

In the middle of the night, the science lab has been trashed, and there’s no sign of the biological sample. It looks like it exploded out of the sample case and took most of the lab with it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Alternate

Mora awakens, and wants to help with the investigation, but he’s too ill—in fact, he falls back asleep in mid-conversation.

O’Brien is crawling around the ventilation systems, which appears to be the way the entity got out. He tracks a strange noise and finds a puddle of goo, which appears to be the now-dead life-form. Bashir and Dax analyze it, and conclude that it just couldn’t survive in the station’s atmosphere. After Dax leaves the infirmary, Bashir hears an odd noise, similar to the one O’Brien heard, then is attacked by a shape-changing life form, which escapes through the vent.

Mora and Dax look at the samples left behind by whatever attacked Bashir. It isn’t the same as any of the biological samples they brought back from the Gamma Quadrant, though they are related at a basic level. When Dax calls up the DNA of the residue left of the thing that attacked Bashir, Mora recognizes it as Odo’s DNA. But Mora doesn’t tell Dax this—he does tell Odo. The attacks both happened during Odo’s regeneration cycle. Mora insists that he not go to Bashir or Dax, that Mora himself is the only one who can help Odo—anyone else will imprison him or put him in a zoo. Odo recognizes this as a transparent attempt to get Odo to go back to the science center with Mora, but before the argument can continue, Odo starts to melt and change and buggers off. Mora goes to Ops and hypothesizes that the gas from the planet has affected Odo in such a way that he becomes a different personality—one that may have hostile intentions toward Mora.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Alternate

O’Brien is able to lure the Odo monster to the Promenade, where they’re using Mora as bait to get him in a force field. With Mora’s help, Bashir is able to remove all traces of the gas from his cellular structure, which should solve the problem. Odo apologizes to Mora, and Mora in turn apologizes right back. Mora also asks if he can once again be a small part of Odo’s life, and Odo agrees. It’s all very sweet.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The life-form is difficult for sensors to track because of its changing nature. Best of all, O’Brien has to actually reverse the polarity on the force fields in order to contain Odo.

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko has a conversation with Odo about how he dealt with his father’s illness. It’s strongly implied, though never directly stated, that it was a terminal illness, the second time that Sisko has made reference to his father in a manner that implies that he’s dead. Luckily, these references were non-specific enough that Joseph Sisko could show up in “Homefront.”

Sisko also has a hilarious conversation with Jake that every parent has had with their kid on the subject of homework: “When am I ever going to need [subject]?”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Alternate

The slug in your belly: Dax’s idea of obeying doctor’s orders is to sneak out of the infirmary wearing a hospital gown that won’t close in the back. (Bashir hid her clothes, showing that he both understands and underestimates her.)

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Dax invites Bashir for a raktajino. Bashir gets his hopes up by asking “My replicator or yours?” and Dax slaps him down by saying that she meant on the Promenade. Bashir muses that Dax enjoys toying with him and that some day he’ll stop chasing her and that’ll show her!!! (It’s actually kind of sad, though “Starship Down” will reveal that Dax actually does enjoy his chasing her.)

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Mora treats Odo like an experiment and a son in about equal measures. The latter part would appear to be different from how he treated Odo in the past, since Odo looks gobsmacked when Mora tells him that he’s proud of Odo’s accomplishments.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Alternate

Keep your ears open: “I am merely a businessman. It would take an orator with the skills of the late, great Plegg himself to sing the praises of the late, great Plegg.”

Quark’s eulogy.

Welcome aboard: James Sloyan makes his second Trek appearance as Dr. Mora, having previously played “Sub-lieutenant Citol” (really Admiral Jarok) on TNG’s “The Defector.” He’ll return later this season on TNG as “K’mtar” (really an adult Alexander) in “Firstborn,” and he’ll reprise the role of Mora in “The Begotten” in the fifth season; he’ll also play the title role in Voyager’s “Jetrel.”

Trivial matters: The original plan was to follow the same pattern as the casting of Dr. Noonien Soong in TNG’s “Brothers,” and having Rene Auberjonois also play Mora, but the much more extensive makeup required for Odo made that impractical in the time. However, Sloyan was given a hairstyle that matches Odo, thus matching what Odo told Lwaxana in “The Forsaken.”

Necessary Evil” established that Odo left the Bajoran Science Center in a huff and he didn’t speak particularly highly of the scientist who worked with him, which this episode develops nicely.

A monolith identical to that found in this episode will be seen on the Founders’ homeworld in “The Search, Part II,” the episode that identifies Odo’s origins.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Alternate

This is the last small-screen Star Trek story to be directed by David Carson, who will next direct the feature film Star Trek Generations.

Mora’s early history with Odo is detailed in the Terok Nor novels Night of the Wolves and Dawn of the Eagles by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison. Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens used Mora as a mouthpiece to come up with a technobabble explanation for some of the more scientifically ridiculous aspects of Odo’s shapechanging in their Millennium trilogy.

Walk with the Prophets: “What makes you think I trust you?” The parts of this episode that show Odo and Mora interacting are excellent. Mora is, bluntly, a prick, and James Sloyan plays him magnificently, with his constant correcting of Odo, insisting on an almost pathological precision of language that jumps over the border to pedantic. Odo’s frustration with him is palpable and you can understand why he ran screaming from being stuck in a building with this guy. Mora’s admission to Dax that he was wrong about Odo being able to survive on his own seems like a revelation, but then he tries to manipulate Odo into coming back with him rather than tell his comrades that he’s the big scary monster.

The problem is that the plot surrounding this nifty character stuff is spectacularly uninteresting and thin. The suspense of finding the big scary monster falls totally flat, there are a lot of very nice character bits that feel like filler (Sisko and Jake on Klingon opera, O’Brien talking about how he characterizes his day to Keiko, Bashir soliloquizing about his pursuit of Dax), and ultimately there’s a giant sense of meh about the whole thing.

Meeting Mora provides some excellent insight into the already-complex character of Odo, but it really needed a story to go with it. It also needed a better ending, as Odo’s reconciliation with Mora at the end is no more convincing than Riker’s reconciliation with his father in “The Icarus Factor” on TNG. Like Kyle Riker, Mora isn’t any less a prick by episode’s end, and their hearts-and-flowers resolution strains credulity (even more so from the much-crankier Odo).

 

Warp factor rating: 3


Keith R.A. DeCandido’s latest book is Ragnarok and Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet, a collection of urban fantasy short stories taking place in Key West, Florida. One of the stories is the three-part “Cayo Hueso,” all three parts of which will be available for 99 cents each. Part 1 is live now for Nook and Kindle, with Part 2 coming this week and Part 3 next week. Another story is “Undine the Boardwalk,” which you can read an excerpt of right on this web site. Folks in the New York area are invited to either or both of the launch parties next week: at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Art tonight and/or at Singularity & Co. on Friday the 23rd. Win a free autographed copy of the book by commenting on this post here on Tor.com.

 

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