“A Simple Investigation”
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by John Kretchmer
Season 5, Episode 17
Production episode 40510-515
Original air date: March 31, 1997
Station log: An Idanian is assaulted in his guest quarters by two Finneans, Sorm and Traidy. When he pulls a weapon on the pair, Sorm vaporizes him. He’s regretful, as he thought it was on stun, and now they have to wait for the woman the Idanian was supposed to meet in order to get the item.
Odo sees a woman in Quark’s named Arissa. She gets rid of Quark by telling him about someone cheating at dabo. Odo is impressed with her observational capacity. She mistakes his words for flirting, and then she flirts a bit back at him.
The person she was waiting in Quark’s for never showed, so she uses her implanted dataport to try to access the computer. That trips an alarm and she’s brought to Odo’s office. She says that she was meeting with the Idanian because he had a lead on her daughter, whom she hasn’t seen in years. Odo takes her to the Idanian’s guest quarters, only to find residue on the carpet that has Idanian DNA—he’s dead. Eventually, Arissa admits that she works for Draim, a major player in the Orion Syndicate. She admits that she has no daughter, and she says the Idanian had information that would enable her to quit the syndicate—not the easiest thing in the galaxy to do. Rather than turn her case over to the Idanian authorities, Odo puts Arissa in protective custody.
He assigns her quarters, with two deputies posted outside. Then he beams him and her to his own quarters, where she should be safe. She can sleep in the bed he still has from when he was a solid. He encourages her to testify against Draim, offering to do everything he can to protect her from the syndicate (he saw firsthand how they treat witnesses in “The Ascent”). She’s impressed with how far he’s willing to go to protect her. He says it’s because she has the courage to try to walk away, something he never could bring himself to do while working for the Cardassians, but it’s obvious that the real reason is that he’s totally smitten with her.
Odo goes to Bashir for advice on whether or not to pursue a relationship with her. He’s scared of rejection. Bashir sagely points out that if he tries, she might reject him and make him miserable, but if he doesn’t try at all, he’ll still be lonely and he’s guaranteed to be miserable.
He goes back to his quarters, where he’s surprised to see Arissa still awake. It doesn’t take long before they start smooching. When we come back from commercial, they’re in bed together. Arissa is surprised to learn that it’s his first time having humanoid sex (he admits that the Great Link is similar in its own way).
Dax and Kira gossip about Odo in Ops, and when he arrives, Dax is even more sure that he’s carrying a post-coital glow about him. Meanwhile, Arissa makes a deal with Draim—she’ll turn over the crystal to Sorm and Traidy if he lets her go. Draim then tells Sorm and Traidy to kill her once they have the crystal.
An Idanian official meets with Odo, revealing that Arissa is an intelligence operative for the Idanian government. She herself doesn’t know her true identity—her true memories are stored on the data crystal. When Odo takes the official to the lab, they find O’Brien in pain on the deck and the crystal gone. The chief says that Arissa took it. The official is able to trace the crystal to a cargo bay, where Arissa is meeting with Traidy, while Sorm hides with his weapon. When he’s about to shoot her, Odo and the official arrive and save the day.
After she gets her memories back, and Bashir undoes the surgery that made her look human, she visits Odo. She’s married, it turns out, and she apologizes, but Odo says it’s not her fault that he fell in love with a woman who never existed.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Arissa has a dataport in her neck that allows her to access computer data. It’s exactly the sort of science fictional thing we should be seeing more of in Star Trek and don’t.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is thrilled to see that Odo is taking an interest in a woman, and her conversation with Odo on the subject in the cargo bay is delightful. She apparently told everyone about it, since O’Brien is the one who told Bashir about “Bedroom Eyes” (the nickname acquired from Odo sharing with Kira that Arissa said he had “bedroom eyes”).
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf does not approve of gossiping in Ops.
The slug in your belly: Dax does approve of gossiping in Ops.
Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: Where Odo has been the object of unrequited love from Lwaxana Troi and has had unrequited love for Kira, this is the first time he’s fallen for someone who fell back.
Also for some reason Odo has nipples. This makes no sense. They went to the trouble of shaving his entire torso so he wouldn’t have any hair, why didn’t they also cover the nipples? They really have no reason to be there, especially given that he doesn’t even do a full-on face…
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Odo apparently has sex in his humanoid form with Arissa, but we do see him using his shapechanging a bit with his hands at one point, and you gotta figure he’s changing at least the size of other body parts, nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.
What happens in the holosuite stays in the holosuite: Bashir has a new secret-agent program, and he’s invited Dax, O’Brien, and Odo to join him. Odo declines, but he later interrupts the program—while Bashir is in mid-back-seat-smooch with a hot blonde—to ask for Bashir’s dating advice. O’Brien, once again playing Falcon, gets the drop on Bashir because the latter was distracted by Odo.
Keep your ears open: “I thought it was on stun.”
“Look what you did to the carpet!”
Sorm and Traidy after the former accidentally vaporizes the Idanian.
Welcome aboard: Dey Young, last seen as Hannah Bates in TNG’s “The Masterpiece Society,” plays Arissa; she’ll be back on Enterprise as Keyla in “Two Days and Two Nights.” John Durbin plays Traidy, having played a Selay (“Lonely Among Us”) and a Cardassian (the “Chain of Command” two-parter) on TNG, and who will play a Telsian in Voyager’s “Critical Care.” And Nicholas Worth, last seen as a Lisseppian captain in “Progress,” plays Sorm; he’ll appear twice in Voyager as a holographic character, the evil minion Lonzak, in “Bride of Chaotica” and “Shattered.”
Trivial matters: This is the second appearance of Bashir’s secret-agent program that debuted in “Our Man Bashir,” though details were kept to a minimum to avoid getting another cranky letter from MGM threatening legal action. Bashir has also decided to let other people play with him.
A major inspiration for this story is the 1952 film The Narrow Margin, in which Charles McGraw plays a cop assigned to protect a witness, played by Marie Windsor, and then falls in love with her. However, the “witness” is actually a cop working undercover as a decoy.
Rene Echevarria’s original script had Arissa see Odo while he was regenerating, and he would morph onto her. Ira Steven Behr nixed it, as he thought it was important for him to have sex as a humanoid, but a version of Echevarria’s original scene would be used in “Chimera” with Odo and Kira.
Dey Young wore the same costume in this episode that she wore as Hannah Bates in TNG’s “The Masterpiece Society.” (Hey, at least they knew it would fit…)
This is the second reference to the Orion Syndicate this season, following “The Ascent.” They’ll next be seen in “Honor Among Thieves” next season.
Walk with the Prophets: “I’ve never done anything sexual before.” Every time I watch this episode, I think that it happened at the wrong time. This is an episode that should have been produced during the period between “Broken Link” and “The Begotten” when Odo was made into a humanoid. They had introduced the character of Chalan back in “Broken Link” intending her to be a love interest, and I suspect that this script included several of the beats they might have used with her had they decided to actually use here.
And I kinda wish they had, not least because there really isn’t any qualitative difference between Jill Jacobson’s performance as Chalan and Dey Young’s as Arissa.
Indeed, Young’s performance is part of the problem here, as she just isn’t quite as compelling as the script wants her to be. In much the same way as her Hannah Bates in TNG’s “The Masterpiece Society” was serviceable, Young’s Arissa is perfectly fine, but not quite what you’d expect from the person for whom Odo breaks his proverbial cherry.
Even if you accept that she’s really awesome, though, Odo’s actions here are phenomenally out of character. All along, Odo has been about justice, and for him to completely ignore the fact that this woman is a thief and a liar because he thinks she’s dishy is hugely antithetical to the Odo we’ve been seeing for the past five years.
Probably the biggest problem with this episode is encapsulated by the fact that Odo has nipples. Why does Odo have nipples? Seriously, that makes no sense on any possible level. I mean, yes, they’re there because Rene Auberjonois has nipples, but there’s no reason for them to be there. It’s indicative of the lack of thought that went into this episode, starting with not doing this when Odo was a solid, and then not really embracing the notion of how an animated pile of goo would have sex, but just having Odo kind-of act like a solid, ’cause, y’know, why not?
I totally get Odo stumbling into a relationship with a humanoid. It’s clear that, even though he’s a changeling again, he’s still on the outs with the Great Link, and it makes sense for him to look at the possibility of more humanoid relationships, since that’s who he’s going to be living with for the foreseeable future as far as he knows.
But ultimately, the whole thing just feels so constructed. Odo isn’t a humanoid, he’s an animated pile of goo, and the episode refuses to even really acknowledge that except in cutesy lines tossed off like Odo saying he doesn’t have a heart and Arissa saying he could’ve fooled her. Instead, it plays out like an ordinary love story with bits of science fictional trappings because it’s a Star Trek show, but those trappings are basically irrelevant, leaving us with a bog-standard romance-of-the-week. There are only two reasons why it’s at all compelling viewing, and one of them is, as ever, Auberjonois, who totally sells Odo’s interest in Arissa, even if Young doesn’t always sell her reasons for that interest, and his anguish at the end when he discovers that Arissa isn’t even a real person, exactly, is palpable.
The other reason is the excellent, and tragically underused, double-act of John Durbin and Nicholas Worth as Traidy and Sorm, who nicely Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern their way into the episode and provide it with most of its charm, leavening the rather sodden romance storyline. (Bashir’s secret-agent program does likewise, but fear of cease-and-desist orders from MGM left that aspect of the story a bit wanting from sparseness, though O’Brien/Falcon’s line about not picking up hitchhikers was epic.)
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be one of the guests, alongside Nelly Reifler, Tor.com’s own Emily Asher-Perrin, and host Ryan Britt, for “Lust For Genre: Classic SF&F Readings form Our Favorite Humans,” tonight at Singularity & Co. in Brooklyn at 7.30pm. We’ll each be reading, not our own work, but the work of one of our favorite classic authors. Come on by!