[DS9] Lynch's Spoiler Review: "The Alternate"

11 views
Skip to first unread message

Timothy W. Lynch

unread,
Jan 15, 1994, 7:17:56 PM1/15/94
to
WARNING: This article contains spoiler information regarding DS9's "The
Alternate". Those not wishing to have spoilers revealed to them (or,
alternately, those who wish to remain spoiler-free) should remain clear.

In brief: sigh. Good direction, with a fifth act that makes up for many
problems, but still missing a certain something.

A significant part of that "something" that's missing is intelligent reasons
for the characters to behave the way they do. Several of the scenes here, at
least one of which was necessary to make the story work, involve _extremely_
stupid actions on the part of the characters.

The broadest of these, hands down, is when Odo, Mora, Dax, and Dr. Weld are
exploring the planet searching for clues. They find a fairly
significant-looking and mysterious pylon there, with inscriptions they can't
immediately decipher, but which is positioned to suggest that it's extremely
important. Rather than do anything sensible like take a few visual records
of the glyphs and bring that home, what do they do? They decide to
essentially go graverobbing, and *take the whole pylon* with them. It's in
bad taste to do such a thing, fairly poor scientific method (after all, maybe
the position was important to the deciphering), and extremely *stupid*. I
had a lot of problems getting too deep into the show after that point.

The second-dumbest move was O'Brien choosing to wander through a conduit,
making himself completely helpless, to track a lifeform which is supposed to
be dangerous and difficult to track with sensors. I'm not as worried about
this one, because he at least _acknowledged_ that he was being incredibly
dumb, but I have to wonder what the point of the scene was aside from an
attempt at shock value. (The parallels to a scene from "Alien" were noted
and chuckled at, as well. :-) )

Beyond the stupidity required to make the jeopardy exist in the first place,
however, much of "The Alternate" was well done. In particular, I think
casting James Sloyan as Dr. Mora was an amazingly good move. Based on his
work in "The Defector" for TNG, I expected a good performance from him, and I
wasn't disappointed. I don't quite think he was up to the level he was in
"The Defector", but it's a tough call either way -- he was excellent. I
could see very easily both his feelings on the situation and all those
elements which would build up resentment in Odo. In some cases, that's
because it was shown rather obviously -- but in others, it was just an
overall sense I was getting from Sloyan's performance. In any event, I
thought he and Rene Auberjonois worked together very well. [It didn't hurt
that they have some resemblance to each other physically, as well.]

On other issues, I have no problem with the "clue to Odo's origins" turning
out to be mostly a red herring (I say "mostly" only because they might, as
Mora put it, be distant cousins), because that wasn't the focus of the show.
I do, however, have a serious problem with the issue of the pylon. Taking it
off the planet was dumb enough, but the show continued by focusing on the
pylon very heavily at times, complete with odd camera angles and
serious-minded music to point out that it was Significant. Well, aside from
their idiocy in taking it, the pylon seemed to have absolutely nothing to do
with the show. I wouldn't mind if it became a followup point, but given past
history I have my doubts about that. In any event, the pylon became a fairly
large plot issue that not only wasn't resolved, but never got a single scrap
of actual progress devoted to it. Given that, just what was the point?

The interplay and the undercurrents of resentment Odo felt towards Mora,
however, seemed to me to be exploited very well. In fact, it led to a fifth
act that was much stronger than anything that had gone before (something of
an exception, really). The entire first scene there, where Mora confronts
Odo about his attack on Bashir, had me utterly riveted. Part of me almost
wishes that the scene *hadn't* had the added visual cues of Odo slowly losing
control over his shape, because it was so well done anyway that I'd almost
prefer just to watch it happening on an emotional level -- but I don't think
the visuals detracted, either. It was a brutal scene, and easily the
showpiece of the episode. My compliments.

There was one and only one place where I thought David Carson dropped the
ball, direction-wise. When Bashir wanders through the infirmary before being
attacked, we should have *seen* him visibly feel warm. We weren't meant to be
surprised by the creature's appearance, since it was shown coming in -- but
by showing Bashir with no apparent feeling of excess warmth, Odo's badgering
him about it later looks suspiciously like putting words into his mouth; and
that's not Odo's style, even given the circumstances.

One comment on the very end, however -- how was Bashir able to get the
molecule out of Odo? I assume Mora must have contributed a lot of
understanding of his physiology, because otherwise we're left with the
conclusion that Bashir didn't think to do it as soon as they came back from
the planet. *That* would be pretty dumb.

Basically, I liked a lot of "The Alternate" in terms of the emotional issues
we saw played out, but I think most of the physical causes that brought it
all up were pretty nonsensical. We have the stupid decision to take the
pylon, which releases the volcanic gas that produces the dreaded Handwaving
Effect on all of the people on the planet, which leads into the real story.
So, good ideas with a lousy backup. (That statement can describe a
distressingly large amount of recent DS9 shows -- there hasn't been anything
since "Necessary Evil" that has been really strong. I hope "Armageddon Game"
in three weeks manages it...)

Some short takes, then, and I'll be on my way:

-- Another fairly dumb idea: no one checked beforehand to see if "Odo Jr."
would be able to survive in their environment? Isn't that a bit unethical,
particularly if you suspect it has signs of intelligence?

-- I liked the teaser bits with Quark selling off pieces of the not-quite-so
"late, great Pleg". I wonder whose corpse he *is* selling. Hmm -- we didn't
see anything of Rom this week...:-)

-- The Sisko/Jake scene was one of their best in recent memory, too. Avery
Brooks does so well in scenes like this that I think we need more of them --
his talents are really being underused.

-- A writing note: Jim Trombetta's name looked familiar in a very sensible
way: he also wrote "The Forsaken", which had a lot of the backstory to this
show. However, the teleplay and second draft story were written by one Bill
Dial. If I'm remembering right, Bill Dial was somehow involved with the old
"WKRP in Cincinnati" series. Is this the same one? If so, it's a weird
leap. Just an observation...

That's about it. So, to sum up:

Plot: The justification for it was nonexistent, but the emotional plotline
itself was nice.
Plot Handling/Direction: Generally good, except for the one previously
mentioned goof with Bashir's attack.
Characterization: Mostly good, with occasional attacks of being replaced
by pod people doing incredibly dumb things.

OVERALL: Let's say a 7. Flawed in many ways, but fundamentally intriguing.

NEXT WEEK: A rerun of "Invasive Procedures". See you in three weeks.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.ca...@hamlet.caltech.edu
"Humanoid death rituals are an interest of mine."
"Death rituals?"
"Everybody needs a hobby."
-- Odo and Quark
--
Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

Marguerite Petersen

unread,
Jan 15, 1994, 9:51:46 PM1/15/94
to
In article <2ha13k$c...@gap.cco.caltech.edu>,

Timothy W. Lynch <tly...@juliet.caltech.edu> wrote:
>WARNING: This article contains spoiler information regarding DS9's "The
>Alternate". Those not wishing to have spoilers revealed to them (or,
>alternately, those who wish to remain spoiler-free) should remain clear.

>In brief: sigh. Good direction, with a fifth act that makes up for many
>problems, but still missing a certain something.

>A significant part of that "something" that's missing is intelligent reasons
>for the characters to behave the way they do. Several of the scenes here, at
>least one of which was necessary to make the story work, involve _extremely_
>stupid actions on the part of the characters.
>
>The broadest of these, hands down, is when Odo, Mora, Dax, and Dr. Weld are
>exploring the planet searching for clues. They find a fairly
>significant-looking and mysterious pylon there, with inscriptions they can't
>immediately decipher, but which is positioned to suggest that it's extremely
>important. Rather than do anything sensible like take a few visual records
>of the glyphs and bring that home, what do they do? They decide to
>essentially go graverobbing, and *take the whole pylon* with them. It's in
>bad taste to do such a thing, fairly poor scientific method (after all, maybe
>the position was important to the deciphering), and extremely *stupid*. I
>had a lot of problems getting too deep into the show after that point.

I definitely agree. It seemed absolutely ridiculous to me for them to
take the pylon with them.

>The second-dumbest move was O'Brien choosing to wander through a conduit,
>making himself completely helpless, to track a lifeform which is supposed to
>be dangerous and difficult to track with sensors. I'm not as worried about
>this one, because he at least _acknowledged_ that he was being incredibly
>dumb, but I have to wonder what the point of the scene was aside from an
>attempt at shock value. (The parallels to a scene from "Alien" were noted
>and chuckled at, as well. :-) )

This also bothered me. It was there, perhaps, to show us how *brave*
O'Brien is. (He rushes in where angels fear to tread.) It seemed rather
pointless and silly to me.

>Beyond the stupidity required to make the jeopardy exist in the first place,
>however, much of "The Alternate" was well done. In particular, I think
>casting James Sloyan as Dr. Mora was an amazingly good move. Based on his
>work in "The Defector" for TNG, I expected a good performance from him, and I
>wasn't disappointed. I don't quite think he was up to the level he was in
>"The Defector", but it's a tough call either way -- he was excellent. I
>could see very easily both his feelings on the situation and all those
>elements which would build up resentment in Odo. In some cases, that's
>because it was shown rather obviously -- but in others, it was just an
>overall sense I was getting from Sloyan's performance. In any event, I
>thought he and Rene Auberjonois worked together very well. [It didn't hurt
>that they have some resemblance to each other physically, as well.]

I particularly liked the physical resemblance. Since Odo *could* have
manufactured almost any form, it is interesting that he chose one that
is *that* close to what is essentially his *father*. (Apart from any
real resemblance the two actors also have.)

>On other issues, I have no problem with the "clue to Odo's origins" turning
>out to be mostly a red herring (I say "mostly" only because they might, as
>Mora put it, be distant cousins), because that wasn't the focus of the show.
>I do, however, have a serious problem with the issue of the pylon. Taking it
>off the planet was dumb enough, but the show continued by focusing on the
>pylon very heavily at times, complete with odd camera angles and
>serious-minded music to point out that it was Significant. Well, aside from
>their idiocy in taking it, the pylon seemed to have absolutely nothing to do
>with the show. I wouldn't mind if it became a followup point, but given past
>history I have my doubts about that. In any event, the pylon became a fairly
>large plot issue that not only wasn't resolved, but never got a single scrap
>of actual progress devoted to it. Given that, just what was the point?

I also agree. *IF* they are intending to followup with something more
that is found because of the pylon, it would be interesting and significant.
Since they never once referred back to it in this episode, I was annoyed.
If it was important enough to take with them then I would have liked to
see something learned from it.

>The interplay and the undercurrents of resentment Odo felt towards Mora,
>however, seemed to me to be exploited very well. In fact, it led to a fifth
>act that was much stronger than anything that had gone before (something of
>an exception, really). The entire first scene there, where Mora confronts
>Odo about his attack on Bashir, had me utterly riveted. Part of me almost
>wishes that the scene *hadn't* had the added visual cues of Odo slowly losing
>control over his shape, because it was so well done anyway that I'd almost
>prefer just to watch it happening on an emotional level -- but I don't think
>the visuals detracted, either. It was a brutal scene, and easily the
>showpiece of the episode. My compliments.

I agree! This was a wonderful scene! I also felt the visuals were not
necessary but definitely did not detract. It was a very shocking scene.

>There was one and only one place where I thought David Carson dropped the
>ball, direction-wise. When Bashir wanders through the infirmary before being
>attacked, we should have *seen* him visibly feel warm. We weren't meant to be
>surprised by the creature's appearance, since it was shown coming in -- but
>by showing Bashir with no apparent feeling of excess warmth, Odo's badgering
>him about it later looks suspiciously like putting words into his mouth; and
>that's not Odo's style, even given the circumstances.
>
>One comment on the very end, however -- how was Bashir able to get the
>molecule out of Odo? I assume Mora must have contributed a lot of
>understanding of his physiology, because otherwise we're left with the
>conclusion that Bashir didn't think to do it as soon as they came back from
>the planet. *That* would be pretty dumb.

That was the assumption I made as well.

>Plot: The justification for it was nonexistent, but the emotional plotline
> itself was nice.
>Plot Handling/Direction: Generally good, except for the one previously
> mentioned goof with Bashir's attack.
>Characterization: Mostly good, with occasional attacks of being replaced
> by pod people doing incredibly dumb things.
>
>OVERALL: Let's say a 7. Flawed in many ways, but fundamentally intriguing.

That's about right. It was a good episode with some wonderful scenes
but not terrific.

Marg

--
"Insufficient facts always invites danger, Captain."-Spock in Space Seed
Member PSEB Captain's Yeoman (First Shift) JLP SoL
Marg Petersen pet...@csos.orst.edu

Henry Big Hank Liang

unread,
Jan 16, 1994, 2:11:08 AM1/16/94
to
Spoilers decloaking ahead ...

In article <2ha13k$c...@gap.cco.caltech.edu> tly...@juliet.caltech.edu writes:
>
>[...] Odo, Mora, Dax, and Dr. Weld are

>exploring the planet searching for clues. They find a fairly
>significant-looking and mysterious pylon there, with inscriptions they can't
>immediately decipher, but which is positioned to suggest that it's extremely
>important. Rather than do anything sensible like take a few visual records
>of the glyphs and bring that home, what do they do? They decide to
>essentially go graverobbing, and *take the whole pylon* with them. It's in
>bad taste to do such a thing, fairly poor scientific method (after all, maybe
>the position was important to the deciphering), and extremely *stupid*.

I'm in total agreement there. Granted, none of them were archaeology
buffs like Picard (who no doubt wouldn't've committed such a blunder), but
it's still just plain stupid. The only thing that the damn pylon did in
the whole story was to trigger the earthquake.

Anyway, Odo and Co. should have known the first rule about exploring
ancient ruins: take anything valuable, and the whole thing comes crashing
down on you. (Who else was yelling "Quick! Throw me the whip!" while all
hell was breaking loose? :)

Not to mention that the pylon was just plain ugly. And, as a friend of
mine pointed out ... a rather distasteful phallic symbol.

>In any event, the pylon became a fairly
>large plot issue that not only wasn't resolved, but never got a single scrap
>of actual progress devoted to it. Given that, just what was the point?

To trigger the earthquake and expose Odo to the gas. Both pretty damn
convenient and contrived plot devices, IMHO.

Also so the characters could stroke it ... [runs away ducking :) ]

>The entire first scene there, where Mora confronts
>Odo about his attack on Bashir, had me utterly riveted. Part of me almost
>wishes that the scene *hadn't* had the added visual cues of Odo slowly losing
>control over his shape, because it was so well done anyway that I'd almost
>prefer just to watch it happening on an emotional level -- but I don't think
>the visuals detracted, either. It was a brutal scene, and easily the
>showpiece of the episode. My compliments.

Aye. Total agreement here -- this scene made me feel very deeply for Odo
and his "father." Odo's shock at the revelation the *he* was the monster
was powerfully riveting.

>Basically, I liked a lot of "The Alternate" in terms of the emotional issues
>we saw played out, but I think most of the physical causes that brought it
>all up were pretty nonsensical.

Yep. Fun to watch for the emotional stuff and character development, but
the plot events seemd too forced and artificial.

--
Henry "Big Hank" Liang | "To boldly go where no one has gone
lia...@eniac.seas.upenn.edu | before ... and blow them out of the
GEnie: H.LIANG, Plane #2189 | sky, spreading their flaming wreckage
666th FS Internet Daemons | all over the countryside." "!2!"

Cleavy McKnight

unread,
Jan 16, 1994, 5:34:58 PM1/16/94
to
>WARNING: This article contains spoiler information regarding DS9's "The
>Alternate". Those not wishing to have spoilers revealed to them (or,
>alternately, those who wish to remain spoiler-free) should remain clear.

>stupid actions on the part of the characters.
>
>The broadest of these, hands down, is when Odo, Mora, Dax, and Dr. Weld are
>exploring the planet searching for clues. They find a fairly
>significant-looking and mysterious pylon there, with inscriptions they can't
>immediately decipher, but which is positioned to suggest that it's extremely
>important. Rather than do anything sensible like take a few visual records
>of the glyphs and bring that home, what do they do? They decide to
>essentially go graverobbing, and *take the whole pylon* with them. It's in
>bad taste to do such a thing, fairly poor scientific method (after all, maybe
>the position was important to the deciphering), and extremely *stupid*. I
>had a lot of problems getting too deep into the show after that point.
>
That (removing artifacts from an [apparently] newly-discovered and not-yet-
studied civilization) has *GOT* to be against Federation laws! That, to
me, was the dumbest part of the episode.

Greg Berigan

unread,
Jan 16, 1994, 7:48:23 PM1/16/94
to
lia...@eniac.seas.upenn.edu (Henry "Big Hank" Liang) writes:
>tly...@juliet.caltech.edu writes:

>Spoilers decloaking ahead ...



>>They find a fairly
>>significant-looking and mysterious pylon there, with inscriptions they can't
>>immediately decipher, but which is positioned to suggest that it's extremely
>>important. Rather than do anything sensible like take a few visual records
>>of the glyphs and bring that home, what do they do? They decide to
>>essentially go graverobbing, and *take the whole pylon* with them.

>Granted, none of them were archaeology


>buffs like Picard (who no doubt wouldn't've committed such a blunder), but
>it's still just plain stupid. The only thing that the damn pylon did in
>the whole story was to trigger the earthquake.

And when that quake started, the first image I saw in my head was when
Indy swapped the idol for the sand, and the next thought was, "Put it
back! Put it back!" Indeed, I thought that was the order they were
about to give, but no, they had to make good their escape.

Other thoughts with O'Brien in the air ducts: "No, not that way, the
other way!"

I feel like putting a MSTing script for this episode. Anyone have ideas
for the skits between the acts, and the invention exchange?

--
gber...@cse.unl.edu (Greg Berigan)

Thinking how Joel and the Bots would react to TNG's opening. <Whoosh> "Aaagh!"

Tim Klassen

unread,
Jan 17, 1994, 11:22:38 AM1/17/94
to
In article <2hapac$9...@netnews.upenn.edu>, lia...@eniac.seas.upenn.edu

(Henry "Big Hank" Liang) wrote:

> In article <2ha13k$c...@gap.cco.caltech.edu> tly...@juliet.caltech.edu writes:
ine pointed out ... a rather distasteful phallic symbol.
>
> >In any event, the pylon became a fairly
> >large plot issue that not only wasn't resolved, but never got a single scrap
> >of actual progress devoted to it. Given that, just what was the point?
>

One thing to note about the Pylon was the symbol on the top which was
zoomed in on in one shot. Unless I miss my guess we've just been
introduced to the symbol for the Dominion who are going to be coming soon
to track down there pylon.

--
TimK

Cows, great big cows, lots of really large cows, substantial cows,
humongous cows, cows so big you wouldn't believe it, stupendous cows,
gargantuan cows, cosmic cows, really really large cows, cows, cows, cows,
COWS FROM HELL!!!!

Bruce Knight

unread,
Jan 17, 1994, 1:14:36 PM1/17/94
to
The Topic In Question:
Is removing that damn pillar a) stupid and b) against Fed. rules, and if
so, why the bleep was it done?

As far as I can tell, this was a Bajoran expedition to Gamma. The Bajoran
scientists were incharge; Dax was along to pilot the runabout and give
an addedperspective, I think.

Of course, I may be completely out to lunch on this one.

Excuse me while I head for the valleys. I'm not fond of nuclear flamage.
:)

-BK
TAU Washington

:crp:

unread,
Jan 16, 1994, 7:28:12 PM1/16/94
to
In article <2hapac$9...@netnews.upenn.edu>,
Henry "Big Hank" Liang <lia...@eniac.seas.upenn.edu> wrote:
}Spoilers decloaking ahead ...


}>[...] Odo, Mora, Dax, and Dr. Weld are
}>exploring the planet searching for clues. They find a fairly
}>significant-looking and mysterious pylon there, with inscriptions they can't
}>immediately decipher, but which is positioned to suggest that it's extremely
}>important. Rather than do anything sensible like take a few visual records
}>of the glyphs and bring that home, what do they do? They decide to
}>essentially go graverobbing, and *take the whole pylon* with them. It's in
}>bad taste to do such a thing, fairly poor scientific method (after all, maybe
}>the position was important to the deciphering), and extremely *stupid*.
}
Since when can a run-about's computer handle transportation and communications
without someone running it? Also, any info on the missing earrings?

Katherine Owen Eldred

unread,
Jan 18, 1994, 11:35:06 AM1/18/94
to
lia...@eniac.seas.upenn.edu (Henry "Big Hank" Liang) writes:

>Spoilers decloaking ahead ...
>
>


>Not to mention that the pylon was just plain ugly. And, as a friend of
>mine pointed out ... a rather distasteful phallic symbol.
>

Well, it *was* about father-son anxieties, right? Very Freudian. Maybe
the pylon was supposed to be symbolic after all.

Nah....

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages