This character driven Odo episode is essentially an old time "monster story", although it takes its own sweet time getting there, adding a twist towards the end that's less unique than the writers might realize. "Who does the detective discover to be the man/monster/murderer he is looking for?" Without giving anything away, let's just say there's a "shocking" answer to this question that gets used a lot by detective and horror writers trying to be unpredictable. In fact, this isn't this trope's first or last appearance in Star Trek. Fortunately, the twist isn't so much a sucker punch as it's a catalyst to explore the relationship between Odo and his mentor, the real plot of the episode. The show deserves credit for introducing the idea of Dr. Pol in previous episodes, with Odo even saying in "The Forsaken" that his hair is a copy of this man's. By seeding ideas like this, the new character comes across as more familiar and less Throughout the course of the story, we learn much about Odo even in scenes where he's not on screen. Favorite Star Trek guest star James Sloyen is excellent as the doctor, substituting for the actor the part was originally written for, Rene Auberjonois. (The size of the doctor's part and the complexity of Aurbejonois's makeup made the double role impossible). Throughout the course of the episode, we learn much about Odo, with his character being defined even when he's not on screen. The "takehome" is enormous, though the episode itself is slow and a bit clumsy.
First, the good stuff - the relationship between Odo and his mentor, Dr. Pol, is genuine and touching. Given that Dr. Pol is already part of Odo's backstory, there's none of the contrived feeling we sometimes get when a "long lost relative we've never heard about" arrives in a character's life. The opening with Quark is nice as well - Quark's superlatives for Odo seem sincere.
The scifi story just left me shaking my head. Yeah, it allows Odo to take out some of his resentment at Dr Pol. But despite some twists it never takes off and barely makes sense.
The hints at Odo's heritage would of course get fuller airing later in the series, but here they are quickly forgotten once Odo becomes a monster.
As a character study of Odo 'The Alternate' works extremely well: the relationship between Odo and his Bajoran mentor, Dr Mora, is well written and powerfully performed by both Rene Auberjonois and James Sloyan (who has made several guest appearances in modern Trek over the years). Some of the scenes between them reached an emotional intensity not common on Trek.
Unfortunately, the 'alien on the loose' subplot is a little hokey in execution and almost seems to parody cheesy 50s B-movies. There are plenty of red herrings and some decent special effects (perhaps all the budget was spent on FX, explaining the somewhat unconvincing alien planet set). Still, in spite of the flaws, the emotional fireworks more than compensate for any weakness of the subplot.
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