Tue
Aug 20 2013 3:00pm

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

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

 

22 comments
Charles Foster
1. FossMaNo1
One of my biggest peeves about this episode was the beaming up of the monolith. I saw no good reason for that act of defilement of a set of ruins. They'd already determined that there wasn't any machinery inside the monolith--its only interesting facet was the writing on its surface and possibly its shape. The monolith could have been holographically imaged and they would have gotten just as much from it as they did by removing it from the site. Now, I am no archaeologist, but this lone act seemed rather abhorrent to me. I might have forgiven it had the monolith had some greater purpose...but as it was I just found the whole thing rather irresponsible.
Zabeus
2. Zabeus
Mora will be given a more sympathetic treatment in his second appearance, when we get more details of their life together. Even here, we only get Odo's perspective, and despite Mora's annoying character traits, you could just as easily believe that Odo is being the ungrateful prick and exaggerating how badly he was treated. I didn't see Mora's transparent attempt to get Odo to go back to the science center as necessarily devious. Continuing the research was part of the reason, but Mora doesn't know the people on DS9 or how much they care about Odo. For all he knows they really would imprison him, and he's arrogant enough to think that Odo would be better off with him than anywhere else.

I was totally confused by the technobabble plot and still not sure exactly what happened. Why did the gas affect Odo that way? Did he break the specimen out? What answers does this give us about his species and that planet? What is the monolith exactly? Why didn't they go back? I did like the special effect of Monster-Odo inside the force field.
David Levinson
3. DemetriosX
As krad says, the Odo-Mora interactions are generally pretty good, but there's absolutely nothing to go along with it. Apparently, the original concept was "What if a shapeshifter had multiple personality syndrome?" Potentially interesting, but handled rather badly. We get some really weak technobabble as a cause and even worse technobabble as a cure as a means of exploring the question.

The FX director was also very unhappy with the amount of screentime the "monster" got. His argument was that only brief flashes and leaving things up to the viewers' imagination would be more effective. He cited Alien, where the creature has a ridiculously short amount of screen time prior to the final conflict and only bits and glimpses are seen.

And FossMaNo1 @1 is also right about the monolith. Terrible method, although no one on the mission was an archaeologist. Still, at least Dax should have known better.
Christopher Bennett
4. ChristopherLBennett
Not much to add. Decent character stuff with Odo and Mora, but a weak danger/sci-fi plot and a mediocre "monster" story. I didn't care for the FX of the Odo-creature either. Also, nothing here was really followed up or integrated with later Changeling lore. The obelisk prop being reused doesn't really count, since it wasn't explained.

About removing the obelisk, is that so horrible if it's a dead planet and there are no natives to care about the site? Or is it an issue of archaeological technique, removing the artifact from its context before it's been fully studied?
Zabeus
5. bookworm1398
The obelisk - there are both archaeological and cultural objections.
Archaeologically - there is no reason to remove it, they can study its scans just as well. And they don't know what damage its removal might do to the structure longterm or how well it will survive being in a ship.
Culturally - Just because there is noone on the planet, doesn't mean the species who made it isn't still around somewhere - in fact, we later learn that it is.
Zabeus
6. Mac McEntire
The obelisk is a red herring. Notice how the camera ominously pans across it once or twice when its aboard the station, as if trying to get us to think that the obelisk is somehow the one behind the attacks.

I’d actually rate this one higher. I really like the Odo/Mora confrontation that leads to Odo’s big freakout, and the “monster movie” vibe during the final act is a lot of fun. (If Odo fought the Gorn, who would win?) Plus, I didn’t see the ending as Odo and Mora reconciling, but more like making the first steps toward reconciling.
Zabeus
7. Zabeus
@6, Always bet on Odo.
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
@5: Do we actually know the Changelings built the obelisks? The reappearance of the obelisk on their homeworld implies that, but it was never confirmed. And would they really value material artifacts as anything more than shapes to imitate? Like I said, the ideas in this episode were never really followed up on, so it's kind of an awkward fit to reconcile this with what we later learned of the Changelings. And it would be a hell of a coincidence if this happened to have been their original homeworld or something.
Rob Rater
9. Quasarmodo
Reading the recap, I initially thought the name Mora belonged to a female.

Later in the recap, Mora tries to manipulate Odo into returning with him, then failing, goes to Ops and hypothesizes that the gas made Odo want to hurt him. Reading this made me think that Mora was trying to manipulate Ops into helping him get Odo, but since it's actually true that Odo wants to hurt him, and Mora's trying to get Odo to come with him, it makes Mora sound really, really dumb.
Zabeus
10. Cy
@8: Perhaps the Changelings abandoned the planet because the gas made them crazy. In which case the Federation should have gone back and tried to harvest and find a use for the gas in the war. Pump the gas into Federation HQ and just wait for the Changeling to go crazy when regenerating.
Matt Hamilton
11. MattHamilton
I think the removal of the obelisk was premature but not entirely bad. It's not that much different, in my estimation, than bringing up objects from the Titanic or all of the graves being dug up in England after they found Richard III. We're talking about an obelisk, but how many decades or centuries must one be buried before it's not considered desecration of one's grave?
Zabeus
12. RobinM
I get that Odo was Mora's most exciting discovery and obviously his work is important to him, but why does he not understand Odo doesn't want to be a lab rat? Mora comes off much better in his second appearance. I can't remember is this the episode where they explain what Odo's name means in Cardassian which is basically nothing?
Keith DeCandido
13. krad
RobinM: No, that wasn't this episode, it's the third season's "Heart of Stone" that will reveal the origin of Odo's name.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Zabeus
14. LeftoverBeefcake
I don't know why Jake Sisko doesn't like Klingon opera. I have Worf's sonorous rendition of Aktuh and Maylota and play it in my shuttlecraft every chance I get. You have to be careful with it though - It's like heavy metal. Before you know it you find yourself aggressively swooping around asteroids and blowing past the Warp 5 speed limit.
Heather Dunham
15. tankgirl73
Hey! I learned something from this recap at least.

When I saw K'mtar (ie old Alexander) on my own recent TNG rewatch, I quickly recognized him as Jarok. The voice was so distinctive.

Just last week, I finished my DS9 rewatch (I'm not patient enough to wait for the recaps each week lol), and never once did I pick up on Dr Mora being the same actor. He was certainly familiar, but I just assumed it was because I remembered Dr Mora so clearly. As soon as I see that connection in print, though -- it's blindingly obvious. I don't know how I missed it.
Chris Nash
16. CNash
I got quite frustrated with this episode. It constantly hints that Odo was treated poorly by Mora while he was in the lab, and that's where the instinctive reaction of monster-Odo comes from, but I don't really see anything in their relationship that indicates this. All that I can work out is that Mora didn't quite know how to reconcile his study of Odo as a scientific pursuit with Odo's development as a sentient being with his own wants and needs; obviously that would inspire resentment in Odo, but not necessarily homicidal mood-swings.

How much of this can be blamed on the mysterious Gamma Quadrant gas, anyway? The consensus of the main characters seemed to be "it was probably the gas, we got rid of it so let's hope it doesn't happen again!", which is a little wishy-washy.

The denouement, where Odo and Mora reconcile, seems forced, in a "oh no there's only two minutes left in the episode" kind of way. Ideally we'd have had a more intimate conversation between them, where they hash out their feelings regarding each other, instead of "Bye, let's keep in touch!" This will happen eventually, in "The Begotten" a few seasons away, so I'll forgive this episode that much.
Ben Parris
17. Ben Parris
In general, I always thought that Odo was never properly developed as a character. I always wanted more Odo and more Kira. I'm left with the conclusion that there were too many characters on the show to handle them properly.
Dante Hopkins
18. DanteHopkins
Keith, I knew at some point I would thorougly disagree with you. I loved this episode. I didn't find Mora to be a "prick" at all. If that was what the writers were going for, the awesomeness that is James Sloyan portrayed Mora as a typical overbearing parent who is proud of his child and is bombastic at expressing that pride. I found Mora enjoyable in that vein, and of course James Sloyan plays it perfectly.

The story here is quite substantive IMO, and the overall suspense is palpable, as you don't know what the "monster" is. And while I agree Kyle and Will Riker patching things up was rather unconvincing, here Odo and Mora building a bridge is quite convincing, and got a tear from me (I admit that freely).
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
19. Lisamarie
Man, this particular DVD is kind of a let down. Now, full disclosure, when we watched this one I was pretty tired and falling asleep. So, I might have missed a few things.

1)I agree with those who found taking the artifact was a bit unseemly - they might have stated that there was nothing left on that planet and it was uninhabited, but even if it wasn't - for all we know, it's a place of pilgramage from other still populated planets. And the context of the other structures in the area could also be important in its study. In fact, I totally didn't get the earthquake was an earthquake, I thought it was some kind of Indiana Jones style punishment triggered by removing the artifact (I told you, I was a bit out of it)!

2)I found the end really quite creepy. I DID really enjoy Dr. Mora's performance, but I did not at all buy the patching up scene at the end. Because, either he did something really horrible that is causing Odo to have this rage personality, in which case it's way creepy for him to be all 'I still want to be a part of your life', and for Odo to be all 'okay, that's nice'. OR, whatever conflicts they had did not justify this homicidal rage monster Odo. The whole thing just struck me as weird.

3)God, Bashir, STOP BEING THAT GUY. I think I'm in a minority, but I just never have been that into being 'chased' or pursued by men if I haven't indicated that I enjoy or want them to pursue me (I'm fine with taking a risk the first few times, to test out the waters, but after that, lay off!). The more they pursued me, the more uncomfortable I felt, sometimes to the point where I felt vaguely uneasy/threatened and did not want to be around the person in ANY context at all. And Bashir definitely sets those bells off in my head (or would if somebody acted like that towards me). Maybe my triggers are a bit more sensitive than most women, though. Not that I had this problem that frequently, heh - but enough that I noticed the pattern. And the man I married, it should be noted, seemed to understand this. I wasn't interested at the time, let him know, he backed off, we stayed friends, and then much later realized I was totally in love and we got married about 5 years ago, and now here we are, with two adorable boys and posting on Tor.com about DS9 together. Happy endings all around!
Joseph Newton
20. crzydroid
I also thought the obelisk was a booby trap, as the minute they removed it, the ground started shaking a la Indiana Jones.
Zabeus
21. Etherbeard
@17 I haven't seen much of this series, but at this point in the show, I would say that Kira and Odo are the most developed charcters on the show (except maybe Quark). Dax and Bashir are the odd characters out at the moment (and O'Brien hasn't gotten much play really, but he benefits from all those recurring character years on TNG). In the two episodes revolving around Dax so far, one had her silent for most of the episode (Dax) and the other had her unconscious for much of the show (Invasive Procedures). I can only think of one Bashir-centric episode (The Passenger), and he was possessed for the whole thing. So far Bashir's biggest episodes have been more about Garak.

On the other hand, Kira had Duet and Progress, arguably the two best episodes of the first season, and got a lot of play in the three-part season premiere, and she benefits not insignificantly from how centered on Bajroan and Cardassian politics the show is, even when she's not the main player in the episode. Odo has had at least four episodes primarily centered on him (A Man Alone, The Vortex, Necessary Evil, and this one). The problem is that 3 of these epsiodes were pretty bad, but at least Odo got to be himself in all of them.

Like I said, this is just where I feel like the charcters are at this point. I'm sorry to hear it if Odo and Kira fall to the wayside, though I'm anxious to see the other charcters, especially Dax and Bashir, developed more.
Stefan Raets
22. Stefan
I'd rate this one a bit higher, mostly because of the stellar performance by Rene Auberjonois. I'd categorize Dr. Mora less as a prick and more as clueless -- clueless to the fact that Odo has developed, grown as a person, created his own life. Mora only knew Odo at the earliest stages of his development (or really, his adaptation to humanoids). Seen in that light, I feel that his attitude is understandable - like a father with a first grader who is unaware that the child has grown up. (Also: I kept hearing Dr. Moreaux, which was really confusing.) The episode has huge problems, to be sure, but I'd rate it maybe a 5 or 6.

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