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A Man Alone

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WARNING: The following post contains spoiler information regarding this week's DS9 offering, "A Man Alone". Those wishing to remain a man (or woman) alone so far as spoilers are concerned are advised to book safe passage away from this article.

Well, that was...disappointing.

Not particularly *bad*, mind you, but definitely not up to the standards set by "Emissary" or "Past Prologue", both of which did good work with the characters DS9 has set into motion thus far. This one, for the most part, seemed to tread water.

First, let's get the plot out of the way. *Please*. :-) I don't often take the side of "if I saw things long before the characters did, it's sloppy," but there are two exceptions. Those exceptions are (1) when the story is, at least in part, supposed to be a mystery [in other words, when we're not *supposed* to have figured it out], and (2) when the people who do eventually figure it out are or have been heralded as leaps ahead of everyone else.

Unfortunately, "A Man Alone" tripped *both* of those traps, as "Who killed Ibudan?" was supposed to be a large issue, and as Dr. Bashir has been billed as a medical wunderkind. I don't buy it; while some of his early
courses of action were good and competent, the sudden "gee, I wonder if it was a clone?" revelation simply rang false.

(I'll leave off discussion of the plausibility of the science, except to mention that Lisa rather vocally lost a lot of respect for the episode as soon as the protein "broke down" into DNA. Not possible, folks...)

The ending also seemed very abrupt, up there with some of the most hurried endings TNG has ever done. The closing scene with the school was interesting, but while we heard an awful lot about what happened after Odo
caught the real Ibudan, we saw none of it. Again, it just didn't seem to work for me. (More on the schoolteacher subplot in a bit.)

What I see as a bigger question, though, is how everything worked with the various characters involved; after all, "Past Prologue" had many elements of the mundane in it so far as plot went, too. PP, however, managed to do lots of good work with both the Kira/Sisko relationship and the Kira/Odo relationship, and managed to keep me interested anyway. "A Man Alone"? Well, it didn't do as well. I'll deal with the disappointments first.

To start with, considering that Odo is definitely one of the show's most interesting characters, I was amazed by how flatly his bits came off. There were really only two scenes involving Odo that I thought were really worth
watching, those being his confrontation with Sisko over being relieved of duty and his conversation with Quark shortly afterwards. Those two worked well, and I'll discuss them in a bit. The others, though, really felt like
something thrown in to advance the plot or simply fell flat. (His extended conversation with Quark about relationships and compromise, for instance, did virtually nothing so far as I was concerned.) Odo, it seems, may work best when serving as a foil for *other* characters, rather than when being focused on fully. On the other hand, it's too early to draw any firm conclusions; maybe this was just poor material on the writers' part, or on Auberjonois's.

The Dax-related stuff had some intriguing tidbits, but I'm starting to get worried about Terry Farrell's ability to pull off the character. Here, I definitely think she was at fault, rather than Piller and Gerald Sanford (the two writers); a lot of the things she said felt right "on paper" to me, but didn't gel when I first heard them. (Some examples here would be her dinner with Sisko and the entire teaser. Both felt like Farrell trying to play Yoda, rather than seeing someone such as Dax who currently *is* both old and young.) Again, it's still early yet to expect anyone to have a really *firm* handle on their character, but this is a little disheartening. I suspect the true test here will be "Dax", airing in about a month; I hope things improve by then.

There *were* some intriguing points made during the discussions with and about Dax, however. The most intriguing had to be the point that Trills take on some of the characteristics of their hosts. In addition to giving
Farrell an excuse to not act like an old man all the time, it also opens up some interesting questions about what happens when old traits and new really don't mesh. I hope we see some more exploration of this; it's precisely the sort of thing about Trills worth looking at. (Any comments about Terry Farrell being worth looking at will be summarily dismissed. ;-) )

Sisko was somewhat uneven. I'm starting to be less impressed with the character; perhaps Brooks exhausted himself with the great work he did in "Emissary", but if so he'd better get some rest quickly. Some of Sisko's
scenes (the ones with Jake in particular, along with relieving Odo of duty) were quite well written and acted, but his dinner with Dax seemed so far afield as to get a bit on the surreal side. I just don't know.

The major exception in all of this, as I've already alluded do, came from the Quark/Odo interaction, and from Quark in general. Quark is a surprisingly strong character to have around. A Ferengi with a personality; who'd have thought it? (It was especially striking when compared to "Rascals", which reran this week. Oy.) Quark's defense of Odo to the Bajorans [who were, well, *there*] was stock, but well played, and his scene with Odo really had sparks flying on both sides of the conversation. Odo may have kept Quark on his toes, but I've a feeling that Quark will keep the show on its toes, and that's definitely a good sign.

Actually, some of the more interesting parts of the show came from characters that I've criticized in the past, which was a turnaround. Keiko's feelings of being adrift and Jake's misbehavior both seemed very convincing to me, and the Keiko-as-schoolteacher idea is one that has promise. (It also has some dangers so far as I'm concerned, but more on that in a minute.) Just as it's too early to claim that people are doing bad jobs, though, it's also too early to claim that Keiko has been really and truly helped by the move to DS9; but it's a promising thought.

Jake was believable this time, as was his relationship with Sisko. Both his prank with Nog and his retort to Sisko about "I thought you said you didn't want to talk about this now" rang *very* true -- and given that I'm teaching kids roughly the age at which Jake is supposed to be, it would be easy to spot things that didn't work. I'm concerned that ideas involving Jake may be few and far to come by (look how long it took for Wes to be a believable kid), but for now this is definitely a good path.

As for Keiko the schoolmarm ... well, we'll see. I thought her decision to do it made some sense, and her conversations both with Sisko and Rom (who I also was surprised to find myself enjoying) worked. I very much like the *idea* of all this, and it certainly seems a good use for Keiko. But my chief worry is that it will all seem effortless. Speaking as a first-year teacher who's just ended semester number one, it is anything but -- and if
Keiko sails through this idea with no particular difficulty, I will be *very* disappointed.

There really isn't that much to say. I thought "A Man Alone" was a pretty pedestrian tale, all things considered. There are a lot of interesting things that they *could* have gone into once Odo fell into disfavor, such as xenophobia (though perhaps that's overused), or just plain old paranoia. (How would *you* like it if someone where you lived or worked could arrange to hear any conversation he or she pleased?) Odo as Big Brother, in fact, is a hell of a story waiting to be told. This wasn't it.

A few short takes, then, before this short review ends:

-- I hope appearances of Molly "Cliche" O'Brien, the Wonder Growth Baby are kept to a very low minimum. No offense to the idea, of course, but kids of that age are simply not something I anticipate wanting to see on Trek (or on television at all, for that matter). She was even less helpful here than in "Rascals", and I didn't care for her there, either.

-- I'm trying to figure out how the cloning issue here fits in with "Up the Long Ladder". Given that in UtLL, clones were seen as an unworkable way of running a society, I wonder why it's still being looked into here. My guess
is that the clone of Ibudan we last saw in the vat would be a very short-lived fellow (perhaps on a scale of days or weeks) -- but if so, why wouldn't Bashir mention it?

-- Kira was almost Zombie Major this time. Let's give her something to *do* other than beating people up. In fact, given her talk with Odo in "Past Prologue", it would have been terrific to see another talk with the situation
so changed this time around.

-- It is rather refreshing to note that Odo seems very uneducated in some ways; his "translate, Doctor" and wondering why someone "not a doctor or a scientist" would want a biological sample container suggested someone very unfamiliar with and uncomfortable with science. While I'm not advocating ignorance, it's an interesting counterpoint to the Trek norm of everybody knowing everything, or at least a hell of a lot.

-- Am I the only one who thinks that Bashir *sounds* a bit like Malcolm McDowell's H.G. Wells from "Time After Time"? The vocal resemblance suddenly hit me this week, and I'm wondering if it's just me. :-) [They're both foolishly optimistic, too. Hmm...time for another David Warner part. ;-) ]

I think that's about it; there's not much to say, and time is short. So, the numbers:

Plot: 5. Not much in the way of holes, but not much in the way of interest, either.
Plot Handling: 6. Okay, but nothing leapt out at me as really *well* handled or directed.
Characterization: 6. Good on Keiko and Jake (and Quark), but surprisingly unimpressive on the really *key* players of the week.

TOTAL: 6. Not particularly bad, but a letdown.


Kira's the key (rah!) to solving a plague. So far, DS9 shows have been better than their previews; I hope this is an exception.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!
"I, William Jefferson Clinton, do solemnly swear..."
-- 12 noon EST, 20 January 1993; whew! --
Copyright 1993, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

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