Season 2, Ep12: “The Alternate”

Synopsis: We begin in Quark’s, where he is trying to sell the remains of a Ferengi who revolutionized the holodeck industry (take-away line: “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.”)

The guy he’s pitching to seems reluctant, though, and when Odo spies what’s going on with his eagle eyes from across the promenade (seriously), he comes in to break it up. When the customer is effectively scared off – by both Odo’s presence and Quark’s price – Odo confides that he’s fascinated by “humanoid death rituals,” deadpanning that “everyone needs a hobby.” He seems really into the Ferengi practice of selling freeze-dried ashes, but it’s hard to tell if he’s being sarcastic or not.

Unexpectedly (at least for Quark), Odo produces some strips of gold-pressed latinum, wanting to buy the container of Plegg. When Quark hands it over, Odo wonders how to tell if it’s authentic (that is, really Plegg). Quark points out that the label says “Plegg” right on it, and that really should be enough for anyone, and then Odo reveals that this was all an elaborate cat-and-mouse by casually saying, “not if he’s still alive.”

Yes, it turns out that Quark has mistakenly bought a bunch of containers of ashes of some non-famous person – oh, the horror. Just as Odo is savoring his triumph, a gentleman in what I would describe as a torso kilt calls out Odo’s name like they’re old buddies. Actually, they have the same hair, so maybe they are old buddies.

Odo looks gobsmacked, and identifies the man as Dr. Mora. Dr. Mora, instead of saying hi, tells Odo it’s been too long since they’ve seen each other and says he’s “coming along nicely,” which, come to think of it, is pretty much the way my mom always greets me.

Odo wonders why Dr. Mora didn’t call first, and Dr. Mora claims it was a spur-of-the-moment roadtrip thing, and Odo seems to think Dr. Mora could have found a minute or two to text him on the five-hour trip from Bajor. Wow, I didn’t know Bajor was that far away. That’s about as far away as we live from Disney, and getting there requires us to exercise almost military travel precision, how are people going back and forth to Bajor multiple times a day? Do they at least have in-flight movies?

Quark offers Dr. Mora a drink, and as he scurries away, Dr. Mora begins to criticize Odo’s ear facsimiles, all like, “oh, you haven’t quite gotten them right yet, have you?” Quark comes back to breathlessly pry into who Dr. Mora is, and Dr. Mora says that he was the lead Bajoran scientist on Project Odo, and taught him everything he knows. Literally. Quark says Odo’s dad is always welcome in his bar, and Odo is all, “HE’S NOT MY DAD” and then Quark compounds the embarrassment by telling Odo’s Not-Dad how awesome Odo is doing on the station.

Odo shuts that shit down and gets his Not-Dad out of there, and Mora is all, “I was just trying to talk to your little friend,” and Odo is all, “HE’S NOT MY FRIEND.” Mora starts criticizing him some more about “social integration” and how he’s not doing it right, and then pries about his job, or, as Mora calls it, “this police thing you’ve got going.” He segues almost immediately into a speech about Odo isn’t living up to his potential, because Odo was supposed to set the world on fire, and now he’s just a perpetual student writing a blog about Star Trek. 

Anyway.

After the credits, Jake adeptly tries to sneak out of Chez Sisko with a slick “seeyoulaterdadbyedon’twaitup.” Sisko protests that Jake hasn’t properly learned to appreciate Klingon opera yet, so he can’t leave the house (it’s like they interviewed our parents for this episode). Jake, quite reasonably, wants to know what he’s ever going to use Klingon opera for in his everyday life, and Sisko says that Jake doesn’t know what he’s going to do when he grows up. And opera critic is a potential avenue, I guess? Maybe he just wants to make sure that adult Jake will have a fighting chance at finishing the Space New York Times Crossword puzzle (edited by a holodeck simulation of Will Shortz).

Sisko argues that Jake might one day have to work with some Klingons, and he’ll want to know about their culture. I’m imagining that somewhere else in the universe there’s a Klingon dad who won’t let his son leave the house until he PROPERLY appreciates Art Garfunkelbecause he might have to work with humans someday, dammit.

“All’s I’m saying, is, you’re going to have to talk to these people around the watercooler, and they are going to be talking about opera. How did I get to where I am today? Opera.”

Jake gets Sisko to admit that he hasn’t listened to Klingon opera since he himself was fourteen, but Sisko, in a move Cliff Huxtable would have admired, suggests that if Jake wants to see Nog so bad he can invite him over and they can listen to opera together. Jake stomps off to his room as Odo enters to request a runabout.

Apparently Dr. Mora asked Odo to get a runabout, and when Odo explains that Dr. Mora is basically his dad and needs to investigate something crazy in the Gamma Quadrant, Sisko’s interest is piqued. Odo says that the Bajorans found some DNA patterns near the wormhole that matched Odo’s, which means that Dr. Mora may have found the origins of Odo’s people.

Later on the runabout that Sisko obviously let them have, Dr. Mora is telling Jadzia all about Odo’s childhood in the most embarrassing way possible. He says that Odo was just a viscus mass of tissue when they found him, and that they didn’t know Odo was even a sentient lifeform at first. “I had to teach him that,” Odo says in a manner that is clearly a grievance disguised as a joke, and Dr. Mora laughs obliviously like it’s all good family funtimes.

He keeps encouraging Odo to talk about his recollections of that time, but when he does Mora keeps interrupting like, “no, you didn’t think THAT,” which, again, is such a mom thing to do. He eventually takes over the story, saying that the first thing Odo transformed into was a beaker, and you can see that this is a story that has been polished over the years to the degree that Odo could definitely recite it with him if called upon.

Dr. Mora tells Odo that things just aren’t the same since he had to turn his room into a combination yoga studio/quilting room, and that shepherding Odo was one of the most rewarding experiences of his whole career. Odo looks kind of surprised, like Mora has never said anything like that to him before.

Meanwhile, random Handsome Ensign informs Jadzia that they’re coming up on the planet  they’re there to study, and it has some volcanic activity goin’ on. They all beam down, and I’m just going to start the Handsome Ensign death countdown now.

When they get there, there’s a bunch of random ruins, including a random obelisk with some writing on it. Mora asks Odo if anything seems familiar, or if he can read the writing, but the answer is no on both counts. Mora says the position of the obelisk indicates that it was extremely important to the people that left it, and Jadzia suggests that they take it home with them to let the computer try and decipher the writing.

This is not going to end well for you, is basically what I’m saying

I haven’t seen the Handsome Ensign in a moment or two, so let’s assume he’s fallen into some sort of sentient carnivorous tar pit. Oh, no, it seems that he was just on the other side of the ruins, he found the lifeform-thing they were looking for, which fills Odo with wonder and Dr. Mora with glee. As they’re about to transport back, an earthquake begins and stones start falling everywhere, and there’s some kind of awful gas coming up out of the ground and it’s debilitating to everyone except Odo, who saves everybody by beaming them out.

Later, in sick bay, Odo is doing fine, Jadzia is fair, and the two Bajorans, Dr. Mora and Handsome Ensign, are doing terribly. Bashir says that the gas attacks the respiratory system, and Odo doesn’t have one, leaving him completely unaffected.

Odo gets up to check on Dr. Mora, and intently asks if he’ll be all right. Bashir spouts some Doctor gobbledygook that translates to “dunno,” and Sisko decides Odo needs some comforting. Sisko tells Odo about a time when his dad was really sick, and that it sucked because it made him confront the fact that his dad was not, in fact, a superhero. Sisko tells this story as though his dad is dead, even though we find out later that he’s totally alive. I think the real reason for this is because the writers hadn’t decided if Papa Sisko was even going to be a thing, yet, but the explanation prefer is that Sisko told the story to make his dad sound dead on purpose, thus giving it more gravitas. Odo protests again that Dr. Mora ISN’T HIS DAD.

Later, in the lab, Irishy says that they’re having trouble identifying the lifeform they found on the planet, because it keeps changing. He says he put it in a security field just to be safe, and he really wishes Jadzia was there, I assume because this is waaaaaay outside the purview of his Chief Engineer job description. He asks Odo what he thinks the lifeform is, and Odo says he hopes it’s a key to his past. Irishy briefly caresses the obelisk before leaving, which seems like, you know, unusual behavior that’s probably worth noting.

Late that night, Kira pages Sisko, waking him up from a deep sleep and telling him they need him now. The terrarium the lifeform was in is shattered, and it’s gone. There are no signs of a break-in, and the lab, you’ll remember from a mere paragraph ago, was under a level five security shield. Irishy says he couldn’t imagine who’d want to steal the lifeform, and warns that the lifeform confuses the computer, which may have trouble finding it. Odo tells Kira to review the security tapes.

Irishy announces that the lifeform may have left via the ducts. Suddenly, Jadzia arrives, and Sisko is surprised that Bashir cleared her to be up and about. Jadzia says he didn’t clear her, and in fact hid her clothes, so she was forced to escape in a flimsy hospital gown. She thinks Bashir hid her clothes so she wouldn’t leave, but I think she’s underestimating Bashir’s pervyness (“Now she’ll have to live here with me FOREVER! A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”)

Jadzia says she doesn’t believe the lifeform went anywhere on its own, and then tells Odo that Dr. Mora is awake and wants to talk to him. As Odo leaves, Jadzia also caresses the obelisk. People just can’t keep their hands off that thing.

In sick bay, Dr. Mora is only interested in the lifeform, and immediately wants to get out of bed, protesting that no one in the sector knows more about shape-shifters than he, and Odo seems rather hurt as he says, “no one except me.” He reminds him that it may not even be a shape-shifter, but Mora really, really thinks it is. Then he notes that the Handsome Ensign hasn’t regained consciousness, and he feels responsible. CALLED IT. Odo leaves reluctantly as Mora falls asleep.

Later, Irishy is crawling around in some ducts, trying to find the lifeform, and Odo says that they haven’t found anything on the tapes, because they conveniently went off for about forty seconds right when whatever happened happened. Sure seems like the lifeform must have had help, then. Even Octopuses aren’t smart enough to erase the video evidence.

Irishy agrees, Sisko thinks it was just a simple power interruption. Irishy hypothesizes that the lifeform might absorb energy and be feeding off the station’s power, and then he suddenly hears a threatening horror-movie style noise that Odo and Sisko can’t hear over the comm. Irishy says he’s moving towards the sound, and to please not mention that to Keiko should they run into her.

“Ohgodohgodohgodohgod itfellonmyarmitfellonmyarm.”

As he crawls forward, Irishy spots a structural breach, and then cries out as something drips onto his head. It’s the lifeform, or, rather, it used to be: now it’s dead, and it’s just goop.

After the commercial break, Bashir and Jadzia figure that the lifeform just couldn’t survive in their environment because it needed a different kind of air or something. Jadzia suggests they get some coffee before bed (decaf, I hope), and Bashir asks, “my replicator or yours?”  When Jadzia looks awkward and says she was thinking more of a public place full of other people to serve as a murder deterrent, he goes, “of course, I knew that.” Creeptastic.

He says he’s going to stay in the sick bay lab by himself, and when she leaves, he muses to himself that Jadzia gets “a perverse pleasure” out of turning him down, which is maybe the most Norman-Bates-esque thing I have ever heard anyone say on network television.

Of course, Bashir hears a knocking in the walls, and when he goes to investigate, the Thing sneaks out if the ceiling all sneaky-like and tries to strangle Bashir with its giant tentacle. Bashir hits it with his phaser or his laser scalpel or something until it runs away. Dr. Mora wakes up long enough to see it and look puzzled.

Later, Bashir has little to tell investigators, one of whom is Dr. Mora, who has the audacity to remark that “the lifeform has survived and grown into something interesting.” Bashir says it was a little warm in the room, which could indicate the same sort of energy disruption that happened earlier. Jadzia says she also found some sort of organic residue, which could be a break in the case. Sisko decides to put the station on lockdown until the Thing can be found.

As the crowd begins to dissipate, Mora is super impressed that everyone calls Odo “Constable,”  and Odo is all, “oh, yeah, NBD,” and Mora says that Odo has trouble accepting affection from others. Wonder why that could be, Overly Critical Guy Who Raised Him?

Dr. Mora goes on to say that he was impressed with Odo’s policing back there, because Odo was “careful and attentive,” and he seems proud of him in an “isn’t he just like people,” sort of way, and goes on to say that the scientific method and police method have a lot in common. I have a theory that all parents secretly think of their children as dogs wearing glasses that want to be just like them but won’t admit it.

Odo admits, however, that the scientific method and crimesolving actually do have a lot in common, and Dr. Mora actually says out loud that he’s proud of Odo, and Odo just grunts in response like he doesn’t care, but we see his eyes go wide in surprise and pleasure.

Odo and Mora go to visit Jadzia in the lab, and Jadzia says she doesn’t have anything on the Thing or the writing on the obelisk. Odo asks if she moved the obelisk since the other day. She tersely replies that she had to because it was in her way. Odo leaves to check on the promenade lock-down, and Dr. Mora asks Jadzia if there are any commonalities between the Thing and the lifeform they brought back from the planet. Jadzia says they’re not the same, but she could run an analysis to see if there are any similarities at all.

Dr. Mora asks Jadzia how well she knows Odo, and then he confides how much he misses Odo, and says that he didn’t want Odo to leave, and they parted on bad terms, but he now thinks Odo was probably right to go. Apparently Jadzia’s tests take exactly as long to run as it takes to nostalgically muse about your fake son, because just then the results come up.

Anyway, the Thing and the lifeform definitely aren’t the same thing, but Jadzia says the computer has figured out the Thing’s DNA, which it handily displays. She says she could run it against all the DNA samples in the computer to see if it matches anything, which should take about two hours. Mora’s face completely changes when he sees the DNA on the screen, and he asks her to keep him updated a little too casually.

He visits Odo in the security office, where Odo informs him that the Handsome Ensign is going to be fine. Bummer.  Dr. Mora sadly waxes rhapsodic about how awesome Odo is, and then informs him that the organic sample Jadzia is analyzing is from Odo.

He points out that the two attacks happened about sixteen hours apart, and Odo’s rejuvenation cycles (where he turns into goo and hangs out in a bucket) happen every sixteen hours. Dr. Mora says that Odo may not have been in his bucket after all, and may have been out on a crime spree instead. He asks Odo if there are any unsolved crimes on the book, and suggests that this may have been happening all along.

Odo wants to turn himself into his friends, and Dr. Mora does this classic parental undermining move where he suggests that no one understands Odo except him and that he can’t trust anyone else. Odo is going a little crazy now, and his face is starting to look like it’s melting. He snaps that he doesn’t trust Mora at all, Mora is a total dick about it, saying that he gave Odo his whole life, and what thanks did he get, blah-blah-blah, come home with me and everything will be fine.

Maybe Odo just has really bad allergies, that’s what happens to me when I get around cats.

Odo really looks melty now, and he yells that he’s not going back to the lab with Mora, and he puts his hands on one of his consoles, and you can see the energy shooting into them. Mora backs away slowly as Odo turns into the Thing.

In Ops, the Thing is detected in security, and Odo isn’t there, so everyone begins to assume that the Thing ate him. Just then Dr. Mora shows up to tell them that the Thing is Odo, having a weird reaction to the gasses from the planet. He says the Thing isn’t their Odo, but at the same time it seems aware of him. He says that all of the incidents have happened when he’s been being a major dick – the first one was probably an attempt to free the lifeform he placed in containment, the second happened when he was in sick bay, and the third happened just now when he and Odo were arguing.

Mora says that the Thing is familiar with him on some instinctive level, and may have hostile intentions. Sisko asks Irishy if there’s any way to contain the Thing if they lure it out, and Irishy says he thinks he could do it. They decide to use Dr. Mora as bait and lure the Thing into a security field on the promenade.

On the promenade, Sisko and Kira set up their little parent trap (ha-ha) and I can’t help but feel like they think he deserves this after being such an asshole all the time. Sisko reluctantly gives Kira the order to set phasers to maximum stun, and if that doesn’t work the first time, to set them to kill. Kira is all, “whaaaaaat,” and Sisko is all, “I know, I know, just do it.”

Sisko, Kira, Bashir, and a large security team lurk about the promenade and wait while Dr. Mora stands there stoically, When the Thing doesn’t come out immediately, Dr. Mora begins his parental trash talk, all, “what are you waiting for, pussy?”

Then the Thing drops from the ceiling, looking very mid-nineties CGI-claymation, and the forcefield seems to be working to contain it. Dr. Mora starts getting all woe-is-me, bemoaning that they made Odo a prisoner again, and it’s all his fault, and I would have a lot more sympathy for him here if he himself hadn’t also been treating Odo like a trained animal this whole time.

Anyway, the forcefield somehow turns Odo back into Odo (science!) and he falls into Mora’s arms. Mora says they have a lot to talk about. Let’s save it until he’s fully recovered from his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde disease, OK?

Later, in sick bay, Bashir point-blank says that he isn’t going to try to explain what just happened. Well, that’s a blessing, I suppose. Long story short, Odo is going to be fine now.

Mora says he’s going home, and Odo seems guilty that he transformed into a hideous special-effects-monster and tried to kill his dad several times, which Mora graciously dismisses as, “you had to speak in a voice loud enough for me to hear.” They both apologize to each other, which is nice, and Mora humbly requests to be a small part of Odo’s life in whatever capacity Odo would like. They hold hands, and the episode ends. Bonding!

Meredith’s Analysis: This episode is pure Odo backstory, and it’s great. The show teases us with promises about his original origins – who his people are and so forth – but what we really learn about him is much more important, at least for now: about the man who raised him, and how that affected his personality.

Rene Auberjounis does a great job this whole episode of looking cowed, subordinate, and pissed all at once. His presence as Odo is always a very commanding and in-control one; he holds all the cards and is extremely self-assured. As soon as Dr. Mora turns up, he takes a backseat to his personality, and you can tell it’s killing him (as evidenced by the Odo Monster). This is a very subtle portrayal of how we all fall back into our proscribed roles when we get around family, no matter how adult and together we think we are on our own turf.

Tim’s Analysis: Originally, Dr. Mora was going to be played by Rene Auberjonois with less makeup, to suggest that Odo had created his humanoid image from Mora, but it would have been too expensive to shoot so they scrapped it. That makes me kind of sad, but James Sloyan does a pretty good job Mora, so it’s alright.

This is an average episode with a good premise held back a bit by predictability. It was too easy to figure out who the monster was and we would have benefited from a few more red herrings and less actually seeing him.

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