The short summary is pretty straightforward: Security Chief Odo is accused of murdering a Bajoran with whom he has a dicey history. The dead Bajoran was a black marketeer in medical supplies during the Cardassian occupation. He was seen as one of the "good guys" by a lot of Bajorans, but Odo claims that this fine fellow would let people die who couldn't or wouldn't meet his price. In the end, Odo put him away for murdering a Cardassian who demanded money to "look the other way." Occupation over, the man is out of prison and on the station. Within hours of Odo attempting to throw him off the station, the man turns up dead.
This is one of those episodes where the concept is good, and the logic is solid, but the script is a strictly paint-by-the numbers thing. It never really gets off the ground and instead remains somewhat mired in its own material. The saving grace of the episode is that there are a lot of nice character set pieces, especially for the secondary and tertiary characters that will eventually become more important than these early glimpses suggest.
In the end, the B story of Keiko O'Brien deciding to set up and run a school for all the Federation and non-Federation children on the station and the C story of Sisko coming to grips with the fact that he has to get to know Dax all over again as Jadzia are far more successful to the point of nearly overshadowing the A story line. That's not a good sign.
The things that bug: Even though the police procedural stuff is nice to see and, in fact, is actually logical in its technobabbly, Trekkian way, the twist is, well, kind of stupid (A man murders his own clone and frames Odo for the murder out of revenge for his imprisonment? Bwhunh?)
In addition, the Bajorans on the station have plenty of reason to be distrustful of Odo, starting with the fact that he was the security chief of Terok Nor (the Cardassian name for Deep Space Nine) in the waning days of the occupation operating under the authority of the Cardassians. So, really, having their distrust rooted in the fact that Odo is a shapeshifter makes approximately zero sense.
Also, the actors are still feeling their way through their roles. Rene Auberjonois goes back and for between Odo's gruff and gravely voice and his real-life, notably higher speaking voice in a jarring show of switch-speaking from one scene to the next.
And then there's...Rom. Ahhh, Rom. Quark's brother. Nog's dad. Most of us who have already watched DS9 know Rom to be Quark's sweet and much, much dumber brother. When he was introduced in this episode, it actually took me well into his conversation with Keiko for me to realize that I was actually looking at Rom. This initial glimpse of him is light years away from the Rom we're all more familiar with. His voice is completely different, he actually walks instead of scurries, and he actually sounds like he has an I.Q. higher than a rutabaga. Bwhunh? Who are you and give me back my Rom, you pretender!
That's not to say that there aren't some stand-out points in this episode:
- Odo's throw-away comment that now the occupation is over, murder of a Cardassian is no longer really considered a crime.
- Federation military brat Jake and Ferengi Nog meet for the first time and become thick as thieves. And when bored teenage boys become fast friends (regardless of species, apparently) the first thing they do is cause trouble. Then they get yelled at by their parents.
Just a bit of a side-note here: Nog gets my "Vir Koto Memorial Award" for the tertiary (later secondary) character who not only grows and changes the most over the course of a series run, but who also does it in a completely organic and believable away. I *heart* Nog.
- Laadddddieeees and gentlemen! Squaring off tonight in the boxing ring: the Battling O'Briens! I think it's fair to say that Keiko and Miles O'Brien had a stormy marriage throughout most of DS9's run, so it's only fitting that when we see the happy couple together for the first time on our friendly neighborhood space station, the two are in the midst of a very public and very heated argument in Quark's bar. The cause of the argument? Keiko wants off of DS9. As in yesterday.
Just a bit of a side note here: Keiko was roundly hated by quite a few fans for a bunch of reasons that varied depending on the fannish group involved. Some hated her because she was a "harridan" to their woobie Miles. Some hated her because she could be a bit of a passive-aggresive whiner and a drama queen, which made her unfit to be a Star Trek character (or something). Some hated her because she was "the woman" in the way of that perfect Julian/Miles slash ship of their dreams.
As for me? I didn't love Keiko, but I always understood where she was coming from. There were some episodes (like this one) where I want to reach through the screen and shake her. She's part of Starfleet's science division, she married a military officer, so what did she expect? That she and Miles would spend the rest of their lives on the Enterprise with none of the regular transfers that afflict most military families? However, I totally get where she's coming from here: she can't accept a long-term assignment to go on a exploratory mission in the Gamma Quadrant, she can't get a berth on one of the station's shuttles to go gallivanting for short exploratory trips to the Gamma Quadrant, and DS9 itself doesn't really need a botanist. In short, she's gone from being a contributing member of an elite crew manning an elite starship to being "the Chief's unemployed wife on a barely functioning space station."
- Even though this is supposed to be an Odo-centric episode, Sisko basically steals the show because, at the end of the day, his character actually has the most conflict. Just check out everything Brooks had to do with a supporting role status:
— When he finds out that Jake has befriended a Ferengi he hits the roof. He not only completely blames Nog for leading Jake astray, he forbids Jake from hanging out with Nog. And yes, it's pretty clear that his reaction is almost completely because because Nog is a Ferengi and for no other reason. Furthermore, the irony goes completely over his head when he finds out that Rom is doing the exact same thing with his son, only in reverse.
— Sisko is visibly struggling with the similarities and differences between Jadzia Dax and Kurzon Dax. Sitting across the table from him is his best friend who remembers all the same stuff he does, and who has all the same eccentric habits, but he's having a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that Dax is now occupying a completely different package. The really cool part about this is that Jadzia gently calls him on it and tells him that he should cut it out with the Federation stiff-upper-lip acceptance thing and that Sisko should just let himself feel uncomfortable.
— Sisko not only pulls Odo off the murder investigation when it becomes clear that Odo is the prime suspect (despite Kira's demands that Odo be left in charge), he then has the balls to say to Odo that he personally doesn't think that Odo is guilty. Odo not only tells Sisko to cram it, he also points out that Sisko doesn't even know him, so it's pretty stupid for Sisko to claim that he doesn't have at least a little doubt about Odo's innocence.
— On some level, I hate bringing race into this, especially since DS9 itself makes no comment on Sisko's African-American New Orleans childhood, but the meta is very hard to miss. There's something very effective about having Sisko standing between Odo and a lynch mob and forcing that mob to back down. While other captains on other Star Treks have done similar things, putting Sisko in this position gives you the good kind of punch in the head.
There is no doubt that this was a very deliberate choice by the writers because the historical meta is beautifully underlined in three ways. The first is when Sisko accuses the mob of being too ready to condemn Odo before all the evidence in simply because Odo is different from what they are. The second is when a loudmouth in the lynch mob jokes that there's no point in trying to "get a rope around a shapeshifter's neck." The third? In the final Captain's Log, Sisko dryly notes that the former lynch mob members have pretty much scurried back to their corners and that, to his knowledge, "no one has come forward to apologize to Odo."
Overall, the parts were far greater than the sum in the episode and that's a shame. I don't know if the placement of the episode is to blame. (It's the second episode — maybe later in the season after we get to know the characters might have improved it). I don't know if it's because the writing felt rushed because too much was crammed into the episode. I don't know if it's because the resolution was kind of dumb. (A clone was murdered? Really? Are you kidding?)
If you focus on the character pieces, it's a decent episode. If you actually want a good plot? This is definitely not DS9's best effort.