Friday, September 18, 2009

Classics: DS9 1:3 - A Man Alone - Response

Original Post

It is quite true that Odo is not generally given to losing his temper over the criminal set. He's more likely to growl to himself or to someone he trusts (and yes, that includes Quark - ignore his protests to the contrary) about how disgusting they all are before morphing into a rat and cleverly catching one in the act. As a Changeling, he simply has no need for romantic fits of passion on the job. Why bother when you are so handsomely equipped for stealth? I'm not sure I would've graded the writers quite as harshly as did my co-contributor on their characterization of Odo in this episode, but it is quite jarring in light of later canon.

What I thought was a damaging logic slip on the part of the writers was this: if Ibudan was just as filthy and corrupt a smuggler as Odo insisted he was - and I really have no reason not to trust Odo here - then what's with the insta-mob? If I were a Bajoran, I think my more vengeful side would be quietly pleased upon hearing of Ibudan's murder. "Thank you, nameless benefactor, for ridding us of that scum and thereby making the universe a marginally better place." But instead, the denizens of DS9 are outraged - simply outraged - that anyone would dare exact a little vigilante justice on their station! I think what we have here is the intrusion of a liberal Hollywood assumption about the common man's attitude toward vigilantism that simply doesn't fit the setting. Bad writers!

This episode also has another flaw that wasn't really touched upon in the original review: like all of the other weaker episodes of the first season, A Man Alone resorts to a Trek-y high concept plot device (Ibudan kills his own clone!) to generate conflict instead of relying on conflicts organic to the setting of the series. And this is too bad, because as Michael Pillar observes in an interview segment somewhere within the first season's special features, DS9 is, as a center of cultural collision, a setting that is brimming with natural interpersonal conflict.


  1. I don't know if I'd call cloning that high a concept...but yes, the weak episodes early in DS9's existence can largely be blamed on the writers staying tightly within the original Gene Roddenbury style that had served TNG well by traditional Trekkies. We see a string of early episodes desperately trying to make DS9 feel connected to TNG. Picard used as Sisko's foil in the pilot, a crossover ep of TNG where they visit the station and Bashir marvels at Data's human-like construction, Majel Barrett (Lwaxana Troi) appearing and pursuing Odo with all the same tactless (and admittedly amusing) flare she used on Picard in earlier TNG seasons, Q showing up to match wits with Sisko instead of Picard, etc...

    You can't blame the writers for trying to hold the TNG audience and make it feel like there's good continuity, but studies show that when you change a show's initial concept in any way that matters, the fans of that show are going to be pissed. It's probably better to target a unique audience the way that Battlestar Galactica did rather than hold onto ghosts of the past and try to appease fans that aren't a good fit for your new theme (instead of Wagon Train to the Stars, it's Bonanza in space and people who liked Wagon Train didn't overlap much with people who liked Bonanza).

    One of the things DS9 deserves credit for later on is the successful integration of Worf's character. That's a risky thing to try once you've established that you're nothing like TNG. Put Worf in a setting that doesn't feel natural to him? Very risky. But DS9 writers worked their magic and not only did they add dept to Worf's character, but to the entire Klingon race...and by the end, you felt like Worf belonged more on DS9 than he did on the Enterprise.

    As for Steph's other comments, I think that may actually be a more accurate assessment of why I felt uncomfortable with A Man Alone than the one that first popped into my head about Odo's character being assassinated. The whole thing escalated in a way that felt unnatural...partly because Odo was behaving in ways that made no sense...and partly because the Bajorans were behaving in a way that made no sense. That's a good addition, I think.

  2. be fair, I did mention the unease I felt about why Bajorans would be uncomfortable with Odo (early on, he was painted a cult hero on'd think they had a little more trust in him if they were lobbying for him to stay security chief on DS9 after the arrival of the Federation). Add to that...if you don't like vigilante justice...why mob the security office and try to break down the door?

    Basically...there's a lack of logic in this plot that's pretty darned systemic.