Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S02E12 – The Alternate

In the twelfth episode of the second season of Deep Space Nine, THIS GOT REALLY DISTURBING. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent and medical experimentation.

Holy shit. I think that it’s bold of Deep Space Nine to tease us with the possibility of an answer, only to avoid giving us any real headway into Odo’s true origins. Instead, though, we’re given a story about why Odo left Bajor behind, and it’s both disturbing and immensely satisfying. Looking back on how “The Alternate” unfolds, it’s clear that the writers wanted be to be suspicious about the relationship between Odo and Dr. Mora Pol. Initially, I found their interactions odd, but a bit charming. Dr. Pol clearly felt strongly about the time that he had spent with Odo, and he obviously wished that he could continue working with him in a scientific setting. I didn’t think that this episode would ever lead to that conclusion, and the story wasn’t leading there anyway.

But the framing device in the cold open was intriguing to me. Had Dr. Pol discovered a similar DNA signature on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant? If so, would this provide the answer that Odo had been searching for ever since he became… well, for lack of a better word, aware? While this question hung over “The Alternate,” I noticed some odd behavior that made me rethink the purpose of this story. There’s a fantastically acted scene aboard the runabout that demonstrated Dr. Pol’s bizarre interest in Odo. While there’s been some canon exploration of Odo’s role on DS9, Dr. Pol’s actions outright confirmed that Odo had not left on good terms. I thought Dr. Pol’s unintentionally condescending praise was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t until I watched Dr. Pol talk over Odo that it became obvious that something was not right.

In that moment, I realized that Dr. Pol still viewed Odo as the means to an end. I don’t want to discount the feelings the man had towards Odo, and I don’t think it’s as black and white as this may sound. But from that scene on, I paid close attention to the way that Dr. Pol spoke of Odo and spoke to Odo. Nearly every time, it was in reference Odo’s scientific worth. Dr. Pol spoke of the value of the tests; he mentioned how rewarding the work was and how important it was to his career; he made a point to communicate his desire to have Odo come back to him. Even when he addressed the ways in which Odo adapted brilliantly to his humanoid form, he did so by subtly insulting him.

In short, he frames nearly everything in relation to him. He tells stories about Odo, but they all included himself. I don’t think that Dr. Pol did this intentionally, but it was unreal to watch it happen. I think it’s important to point out because it perfectly explains why Odo eventually has the reaction that he does. While “The Alternate” doesn’t do much to explain the scientific logistics of his outbreak, it does provide us the emotional framework for it. I imagine that some form of life similar to Odo really did come from that unnamed planet, and the gas may have been what killed them off. (What does that weird pillar mean, though??? That was never addressed!) But Odo’s reaction may have also been unique because of his emotional state. Simply put, he felt terrible around Dr. Pol. Each of the three incidents involved something that reminded Odo of his time confined to a lab. He may have agreed to work with Dr. Pol and the other scientists in some capacity, but I got the sense from this episode that he may not have actually wanted to. How long had he wished to escape that lab?

Thus, each moment was a trigger for Odo, and he lashed out. That’s what that horrifying scene in Odo’s office meant to me. Dr. Pol cornered Odo, verbally berated and belittled him, and he triggered that transformation. Wasn’t it obvious that all he wanted was Odo to return to Bajor? He wasn’t doing this to act in Odo’s best interest, even if he wanted to.

Regardless, it’s a really scary scene, especially because Odo can’t really control what happens to his body. And while Odo seems willing to perhaps revisit a relationship with Dr. Pol in the future, I think the conclusion to “The Alternate” is the best thing Odo can do. He may feel sorry for attacking Dr. Pol, but the bigger issue is addressed outright: Dr. Pol is sorry for ignoring Odo’s thoughts and feelings for years. That’s why I found the episode satisfying, despite that so many questions are utterly unresolved. There was emotional closure provided here, and I appreciate that.


The video for “The Alternate” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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