Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DS9 Rewind Review - "A Man Alone"

Review by Paul Steven Brown

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1 – Episode 3
“A Man Alone”

“A Man Alone” was actually filmed before “Past Prologue” but aired after. This was probably a smart move by the producers. “Past Prologue” was a cracking good hour that kept the momentum from “Emissary” rolling and provided some great character depth for Major Kira. The central plot thread of “A Man Alone” focuses on Odo, but the episode doesn’t come near to illuminating the shapeshifter’s nature in the way Kira was spotlighted in the previous show.

Part of the problem is that “A Man Alone” attempts to do too many things at once. There’s the Odo plot, plus the meeting of Jake and Nog, Keiko O’Brien’s feelings of inadequacy on the station, and Bashir chasing after Dax. The main story isn’t very strong and the subplots are interesting enough to somewhat save the episode.

While the exploration of Odo’s sense of justice is worthwhile, the actual murder mystery is pretty unsatisfying. The result is a very sci-fi explanation of the crime and Bashir doing most of the solving for Odo. Also, I’m not convinced of the quickness of a mob erupting over the situation. Not speak ill of the dead, but Edward Laurence Albert’s performance as the mob leader, Zayra, is hilariously cartoonish, especially when he growls “Shifter!!” Still, maybe Odo isn’t that great of security chief if his own office (you know the place with the jail) can be easily broken into and vandalized without anyone but Quark witnessing the transgression.

Quark, and his relationship with Odo, is one of the redeeming parts of “A Man Alone”. Because of their continuous cat and mouse game over the years, they’ve come to know each other extremely well. It’s a rivalry that has generated an unspoken respect; not personal respect, but for each other’s ability to play the game, if you will. They have better insight into each other’s character than anybody else on the station. It’s very telling when Quark tries to convince Zayra and the other Bajorans that Odo was no Cardassian sympathizer. When questioned on his defense of his greatest enemy, Quarks response is “I guess that’s the closest thing he has in this world to a friend.” Plus, Armin Shimerman (Quark) and Rene Auberjonois (Odo) have great chemistry and their banter really pops. Their scene in Odo’s wrecked office is really great to watch. Again, Shimerman makes great use of his environment. I love the way he casually glances at the pad in his hand, almost walks out with it, turns back to Odo, and returns it with a toothy grin.

Rosalind Chao reprises her role as Chief O’Brien’s wife Keiko. It makes sense to bring her into the series in some capacity. It would be weird that we would never see this married man’s wife, especially on a space station that is more made communal living than a space ship. Their argument at the beginning of the episode is a very understandable one and one that real couples probably have. They moved for his promotion, but now she’s in an unfamiliar place and doesn’t have many career options of her own. Unfortunately, this kind of rings false given that Keiko is a botanist and Miles offers up some fairly good options for her to explore. The writers make Keiko resistant to any “handouts” from her husband so they can get down to the business of her opening a school. It’s an interesting idea and the school is a better place to explore Nog and Jake’s new friendship instead of having them continuing to get into trouble on the Promenade.

There’s quite a bit of Dax material in “A Man Alone”, too. We get a good feel for how Sisko and Jadzia Dax are going to have a very different friendship than Sisko and Curzon Dax. Bashir’s chasing of Jadzia wears out its welcome fairly quickly, but it does lead to informative dinner conversation between the commander and the doctor about her and Dax’s other hosts. Hopefully, we won’t have to endure another cringe-worthy delivery of the ways Sisko would rather eat azna by Avery Brooks ever again.

Overall, “A Man Alone” is a fairly mediocre episode of DS9 and the weakest of the show so far. Fortunately, there are a number of character moments and insights that do their best to save the hour.

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