1.4 A Man Alone

A man is brutally murdered in a locked holosuite. The computer is clear – no one came in, no one went out.

The Locked Door Murder is one of the staples of the detective genre. There are, at last count, eighteen solutions to the locked door mystery, of which nine involve suicide, seven involve some kind of trickery with windows, special keys or secret passages and, of couse, the famous Herring Solution. Being a scifi series set four hundred years from now on a space station, this show introduces two more.

While at Quarks, Odo spots an ex-con named Ibudan. With an uncharacteristic display of anger, Odo throws Ibudan out of the bar and orders him to leave the station. Ibudan refuses, and Odo storms out, clearly enraged. Ibudan then decides to take a massage in the holosuite. He is brutally stabbed to death within the hour.

Odo is called to the scene along with Bashir (who inspects the body) and Dax (who scans the scene), and they come to the following conclusions – there are only four sets of DNA in the room (which speaks to a truly spectacular cleaning regimen by Quark) – namely, the victim, Dax, Bashir and Odo. The computer logs entries and exits, and it’s clear that whoever killed Ibudan did so without opening the door…

Odo’s alibi is that he was in a bucket in the corner of his office at the time, to which there are, obviously, no witnesses. He attempts to continue his investigation, but it becomes clear that the public is becoming suspicious of their shapeshifting constable.

A group of concerned citizens confront Sisko, who has no choice in the face of such a palpable conflict of interest. He asks Odo to stand aside in the investigation, which he does with bad grace. He returns to his quarters to find them vandalised.

The next morning, Odo is trapped in his office by an angry mob. The mob is faced down by Commander Sisko, and the situation is starting to look very ugly when Doctor Bashir appears with new evidence – Ibudan had cloned himself.

It all becomes clear – Ibudan cloned himself, murdered his clone and framed Odo in revenge for Odo’s involvement in Ibudan’s previous convictions. Since “killing your own clone is still murder”, it’s back to prison for Ibudan.

Oh, and there’s also a B-plot in which Keiko O’Brien sets up a school.

===

This episode is really the “Introducing Odo” episode, rather like “Past Prologue” was the “Introducing Kira” episode. It describes Odo’s nature, capabilities and personality, allowing us to get a fairly good understanding of him. He worked for the Cardassians, but he wasn’t a collaborator. He’s interested only in justice, law and order. He is deeply hurt by the actions of the public. He is not afraid of them.

We also see the first signs of two major arcs – the establishment of Keiko’s school, which plays a major role in the season finale; and the question of jurisdiction, which will come up at least twice more over the course of the series. Basically, Starfleet doesn’t like the fact that station security is entirely out of their hands. Odo is technically a mamber of the Bajoran militia, and all his deputies are Bajoran. We rarely see any Starfleet security, and not even those until war with the Dominion breaks out properly.

As a mystery story, the plot relies a little too heavily on the science fiction background of the story, which prevents the typical viewer from being able to work out what’s happening until Bashir’s dramatic reveal. It also mentions, almost in passing, that Ibudan’s clone achieves sentience and goes off to live its own life.

This is kind of the critical plot point of this little adventure – does a clone have its own identity? Is it a unique individual, or merely a shadow of the original? If a clone is just a copy of a real person, doesn’t that make killing your own clone closer to suicide?

The other factor is that, while killing your own clone is murder, breeding your own clone seems to be merely a little strange. The complex ethical issues that plague the current cloning debate seem to be just quietly ignored…

Last point – does anyone else think it’s a little strange that the crew suspects that Odo would be sufficiently stupid to kill someone in a way that meant only he would be suspected? I mean, he’s the Chief of Security – if he was going to kill someone, he’d at least make sure Quark was going to get blamed for it.

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