Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Abandoned

"The first rule of Dabo is to watch the wheel, not the girl."

When a salvage artist rubs Quark's lobes the right way, she gets what she wants, Deep Space Nine gets an unexpected visitor from the Gamma Quadrant, and Odo is cast in the role of protector for a stranger in a strange land.

Abandon is one of those double edged words; it can be freedom or it can be exile. “The Abandoned” is a neat little combination of character and plot. On the one hand it’s an episode about Odo and Sisko working out some internal dramas. We even get cute Quark moments. On the other hand we learn more about the Founders and the Jem’Hadar, and what we learn doesn’t make them any less terrifying. And both our A plots and B plots have to do with ‘abandon’, and our heroes looking through the lenses of their own lives.

Take Sisko. On the one hand he initially thinks that Mardah is just some abandoned Dabo girl who’s got designs on his son. Mardah and her relationship with Jake is something the show has been carefully building up; although she’s a Dabo girl she’s only a few years older than Jake and has been a classmate of his. Mardah and Jake's relationship is thus somewhat edgy because of their age difference, although I think Jake is really precocious. But in discussion Sisko learns it’s Mardah herself who’s been abandoned... by her family, for the circumstances of her job and Jake who’s apparently been a wildly abandoned dom-jot hustler, and a writer of beautiful poetry.

Odo goes through a somewhat parallel experience, when a little adventure of Quark’s brings a refugee child from the Gamma Quadrant to Deep Space Nine, who turns out to be a Jem’Hadar. While the crew is terrified of this powerful warrior, and we learn a lot about Jem’Hadar physiology and psychology, the true drama of this episode’s storyline lies in Odo’s empathy for the child, which quickly assumes adult form. He believes the child is a being who has been abandoned, not an organic construct with overriding principles. He believes the Jem’Hadar is a lost orphan like he was. Only near episode’s end does Odo recognize the true nature of the Jem’Hadar abandonment: which lies in war and battle.

At first I thought this episode would follow in the paths of the Hugh storyline from TNG. There, the crew also encounter an abandoned member of a warrior race which has declared war on the Federation. But there is no cutesy name here, no humanity for Odo to find behind the mask of war, only horror and guilt knowing that this – the Jem’Hadar, trapped in the role of killing machine – is a product of Odo’s people, the Founders. It’s a terrifyingly sad ending for Odo, though not for Jake, who continues to engage in hustling and dating Mardah, with his father a bit more bemused.

Ethics and morality

In times of war people stretch their ethical boundaries. Here, fear of a war with the Dominion leads the crew of DS9, however briefly, to almost acquiesce to the Starfleet idea they should imprison and experiment on the Jem’Hadar. Only Odo has any wherewithal to convince the team that such treatment would be immoral and a crime against, well, Jem’Hadararanity, and his whole argument is that he was experimented on and abused but he's a good person so the Jem'Hadar deserves the same sort of chance. Yet, Odo’s ethical approach doesn’t result in smiles and giggles as it did between the TNG crew and Hugh. Instead Odo’s approach gives the Jem’Hadar time to understand itself and embrace its violent nature. So did he do the right thing?

Bits and pieces

This episode seemed to have a lot of cute vignettes. Everyone was deeply in character. Here’s a list of some of my favorite moments:
  • The poor penis-headed alien with a bad wig that couldn't beat Mardah at Dabo. He was hilarious. Get the dude a spin-off. 
  • Kira bringing Odo a housewarming plant.
  • Odo continuing his studies as a changeling by building a unique set of quarters and filling it with living things he comes to emulate and understand.
  • Odo telling Kira she’s always welcome. It's incredible because I often see people on television with sexual chemistry, but this isn't eros (or at least not yet); this is agape, and a connection from one heart to another. Nana Visitor gets the relationship and pulls off a whole complex level of acting with a smile. 
  • Odo using his bucket as a planter for Kira’s gift. SYMBOLIZE HARDER, ODO!
  • Quark flirting with the mercenary trader. Something about Armin Shimerman's smile when he's playing Horny Ferengi... 
  • Sisko holding a child and reminiscing about his time when Jake was young.
  • Sisko serving spicy Cajun food during Mardah's visit. I think there's some connection to him viewing Mardah as abandoned before he found out she was abandoned. You know what I mean. 
  • O’Brien being impressed Jake is dating a Dabo girl. Fits right in with his character. 
  • The closing scene, with Odo telling Kira she had been right about the Jem’Hadar all along.
What was your favorite moment?

Quotables

Sisko: Poetry? You write poetry?
Jake: Well, sort of. Not really.
Mardah: Now who doesn't have enough faith in themselves? He writes some of the most beautiful things I've ever read. That's what won me over.
Sisko: His poetry.
Mardah: And the way he plays dom-jot.
Sisko: You play dom-jot?
Mardah: Oh, your son can play. He's quite the hustler.
Sisko: A hustler?
Jake: Why don't I see how dessert's coming?

Chief O'Brien: I still don't understand why they would engineer someone to be addicted to a certain chemical.
Odo: I suspect it's another way of insuring the loyalty of the Jem'Hadar to the Founders. If your soldiers are addicted to a drug that can't be replicated and only you can provide, that gives you a great deal of control over them.
Chief O'Brien: Seems a pretty cold-blooded thing to do.
Odo: My people don't even have blood, Chief.

Overall

Great episode. Four out of five piles of galactic salvage.

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