The Alternate (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 12) Odo helps a Bajoran scientist investigate a shape-shifty clue to his own origins

Rewatching ST:DS9

As Odo squelches Quark’s latest scheme, a Bajoran man greets the constable with an air of familiarly, leaving Odo on edge.

Dr. Mora is the scientist in charge of investigating the liquid substance that we now understand is the at-rest state of the shape-shifter Odo.

In Mora’s presence, Odo acts like a teenager humiliated by an overbearing parent. Mora’s praise for Odo’s accomplishments is laced with surprise; his compliments carry passive-aggressive barbs. 

By contrast, Sisko is SuperDad, calmly affirming to Jake of the value of a broad education, including Klingon opera homework.

Jake: Just because you suffered through all that doesn’t mean I have to.
Sisko: (clearly enjoying himself) Yes it does.

Odo asks for a runabout to take Mora to a planet near the wormhole, to investigate what might be a clue to Odo’s origins.

The landing party finds stone ruins; Dax rather cavalierly decides to bring a carved column back to the station. (Jadzia is supposed to have a degree in exoarchaeology… should she really be looting this site?)  The party also collects purple dust that we are told is some kind of morphing plant. When the stone pillar is beamed away, an earthquake happens and the party is exposed to some kind of gas.

Odo seems unaffected, but the rest of the party remains in the infirmary. Sisko tries to comfort Odo, offering a story about his own father’s illness, but as Odo points out, “Dr. Mora is not my father.”

With both Mora and Dax in the infirmary, O’Brien reports what he’s observed. (Are there no other science officers on the station? Wouldn’t Keiko the botanist have a professional interest in this alien plant?) Odo seems very interested in the carved column.

Overnight, the lab is trashed, and we have a locked-room puzzle. More clues start coming into play as first Dax and then Mora leave the infirmary to join the investigation, and the story takes a shift into hunt-and-be-hunted suspense.

Odo softens a bit when he and Mora two discuss similarities in scientific and criminal investigations, but Mora is still struggling to accept that Odo is a sentient being with free will, not the laboratory puzzle that has been the highlight of Mora’s career.

While the guest star does a great job with a complex character, I still found it odd that in the finale, so much depends on Dr. Mora. (At one point he cries out, “Dear God, what have I done,” which is not exactly consistent with Bajoran religious references to “the Prophets.”) 

The “detective realizes he’s the prime suspect” middle story does resolve itself reasonably well into the “mad scientist confronts his creation” endgame. (I enjoyed watching O’Brien crawling through tunnels, chattering nervously about how he’d describe his monster-hunting day to his wife.)

But the carved pillar and the conveniently timed earthquake that released an unexplained plot contrivance gas from the “archeological adventure” opening were just dropped.