Lynch's Spoiler Review: "A Man Alone"

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Timothy W. Lynch

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Jan 23, 1993, 8:46:26 PM1/23/93
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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.

NEXT WEEK:

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
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.ca...@hamlet.caltech.edu
"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...

Mark Runyan

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Jan 25, 1993, 4:01:16 PM1/25/93
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Timothy W. Lynch (tly...@cco.caltech.edu) wrote:
>WARNING: The following post contains spoiler information regarding this
>week's DS9 offering, "A Man Alone". ...


>-- 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?

In Up The Long Ladder, clones were a problem because eventually cloning
wouldn't work because the longer you ran a string of clones the more mutation
you got to the point where you couldn't clone anymore. At no time was there
a mention that a clone was any shorter lived than the original. Indeed,
the only reason this clone's life would be shorter is because the clone
will probably be 30+ years old, as the original was. There is no reason
that I can detect that Ibudan's clone short be short lived. Indeed, the
only quesiton that comes up is the ethics of creating a clone without
acquiring the donor's permission.

Mark Runyan {r.a.s. random rationalizer}

the trek witch

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Jan 25, 1993, 5:37:23 PM1/25/93
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In <C1FH2...@cup.hp.com> run...@cup.hp.com (Mark Runyan) writes:


>Timothy W. Lynch (tly...@cco.caltech.edu) wrote:
>>WARNING: The following post contains spoiler information regarding this
>>week's DS9 offering, "A Man Alone". ...
>
>>-- 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?

>Indeed,


>the only reason this clone's life would be shorter is because the clone
>will probably be 30+ years old, as the original was.

Actually, I was wondering why the clone came up full blown grown rather
than as a baby? Or were these DNA supposed to be further modified
to result in a full-grown body? It was the fishiest part of the whole
episode...

--the trek witch


--
Cindy Tittle Moore

Internet: tit...@ics.uci.edu | BITNET: clti...@uci.bitnet
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!ucivax!tittle | Usnail: PO Box 4188, Irvine CA, 92716

Mark Runyan

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Jan 27, 1993, 12:20:47 PM1/27/93
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the trek witch (tit...@ics.uci.edu) wrote:
>> run...@cup.hp.com (Mark Runyan) writes:
>>Timothy W. Lynch (tly...@cco.caltech.edu) wrote:
>>>WARNING: The following post contains spoiler information regarding this
>>>week's DS9 offering, "A Man Alone". ...

>>Indeed,
>>the only reason this clone's life would be shorter is because the clone
>>will probably be 30+ years old, as the original was.
>
>Actually, I was wondering why the clone came up full blown grown rather
>than as a baby? Or were these DNA supposed to be further modified
>to result in a full-grown body? It was the fishiest part of the whole
>episode...

From `Rascals', we learn that Treknology includes references to special
sequences stored on the DNA level (I don't remember the gibberish name
they gave them) and that these sequences accounted for age. My impression
is that the clone received the donars DNA, including this <gibberish>
sequences, so the clone's age must come out to be the age of the original
donor.

Mark Runyan

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