What’s it about: Odo is framed for murder by a criminal he once put away…
Single Father: This episode juggles a plethora of subplots that make the overall experience more palatable. Sisko’s new friendship with Dax is spoken about and his awkward dinnertime conversation with Bashir puts to rest any fears that the young Doctor might have feelings about her. This is a very different Sisko to the one who has to juggle up a hundred problems in later season – he preaches to Odo about playing by the rules but in later seasons he goes on a manhunt, frames an entire species and starts a full scale war. Nice to see Sisko taking a different lead from Picard and happily socialising with his crew.
Unknown Sample: It is a shame that the first Odo vehicle is a bit of a missed opportunity because the character deserves better. He would get a much better crack at the whip in Vortex later in the season. Odo has never seen the need to ‘couple’ but by the end of the seven-year run he would be quite the expert. I would love to be able to argue with his disparaging assessment of a night in with the other half but anybody in a relationship would recognise what he is saying. His creed is laws change depending on the administration but justice is justice. Not a bad way to live your life, and certainly the most sane. Whilst Sisko would come to admire and respect Odo’s unique approach to law enforcement his unwillingness to be a team player would be brought up several times in later episodes. It's here that we learn that Odo hangs out in a pail at the back of his office when regenerating. There is something tragic about Odo feeling so detached from humanoid life and makes his eventual integration all the more satisfying.
Community Leader: Business is doing well and he’s (almost) making an honest living. Quark practically salivates at the sight of Dax so her number of admirers is growing by the day. When told he is Odo’s worst enemy he bites back with the knowledge that an enemy is the closest thing Odo has to a friend. I love this partnership and there are so many touches of loyalty and (dare I say it at the risk of making something so gloriously acerbic sound twee) friendship between the two rivals. It’s an engaging love/hate relationship played by two actors that adore each other. Quark’s reaction when Odo asks if he needs a shape shifter in his organisation is priceless; he doesn’t know which way to jump.
GE Doctor: Bashir is persistently trying to sneak his way into Dax’s knickers. To give him his credit by the end of the season he would succeed albeit in a product of his own imagination.
Nine Lives: Dax seems to suggest that Trill’s are above sexual needs but that really jars with the good time girl that beds the most frigid Klingon later on in the show. I think she was just trying to stay off Bashir's lustrous advances.
The O’Briens: Our first glimpse at the problems besetting Miles and Keiko and their move from the gleaming corridors of the Enterprise to the far less family friendly Station. Keiko does whine a little too much but anybody who has suffered a massive upheaval in their life and had to try and find a way to settle in will recognise what she is going through. I really like the scene with Keiko trying to convince Rom to send Nog to the school (and succeeding), it's great to see another neglected TNG character given rare focus.
Young Friends: Another fine pairing is set up in this episode although perhaps not in the smartest of ways. Jake & Nog would turn out to be one of the most vital explorations of opposing cultures in the series, a Ferengi and human that share a bond of friendship that transcends their race. However the scene with the bolites hardly showcases them at their best.
The Good: The school is a great idea, allowing us the opportunity to see this environment turning into a community and giving Keiko a solid role in the series. I love how nothing is forgotten in this series. In the first episode Kira suggested civil war was inevitable and it is followed up in The Homecoming. In A Man Alone Sisko mentions that Keiko opening the school will be a challenge because the children all come from different cultures which is followed up with dramatic consequences in the series finale. Hana Hatae is the cutest thing on two legs.
The Bad: The murder scene itself isn’t very excitingly directed – Alfred Hitchcock would be appalled by the lack of atmospherics (plus I cannot think of anything more skin crawling than having a massage by a web-fingered alien). The sequence with the Bolites is a rare example of DS9 going for the comic jugular and failing. DS9 is exactly the sort of place where a mob could easily gather but these scenes fail to convince mostly because the Bajorans are portrayed as weak willed bullies and Sisko’s touchy feely approach to breaking it up lacks any kind of punch. I’d have had the whole lot of them confined to a security cell for a week. The solution to the mystery is a mouthful of technobabble and nobody acts terribly surprised. In true Scooby Doo fashion the killer is hiding under a rubber mask.
Result: A murder mystery without any mystery, A Man Alone is a tired episode three which only comes alive when focusing on the developing dynamics between the characters. Odo is so clearly the target of Ibudan’s murder and the effortless way hatred is stirred up against him forces the plot to ignore the idea that there could be any other suspects and the wrap up is as contrived as it comes with a twist that hasn’t even been hinted at. Fortunately there are an abundance of scenes that see character pairings come together (Jake & Nog, Sisko & Dax, Odo & Quark) and an enjoyable subplot that follows Keiko finding her place on the station that are agreeable to watch. DS9 has a higher hit rate than most in providing an enjoyable b plots when the main storyline fails to engage (especially in seasons two and three) but that still doesn’t excuse the bulk of the episode falling below par. You expect a few stumbles when a show begins and this one is average but not too offensive given the character treasure that can be unearthed: 5/10