The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: The Abandoned

When Quark buys the wreckage of a Gamma Quadrant ship, he is less than thrilled to discover an alien infant inside it. Under the care of station personnel, the baby rapidly grows into adolescence, revealing himself to be a Jem’Hadar. As the only person the child will respect, Odo takes upon it himself to mentor the youth, in the hopes of transforming him into something more than a mindless soldier.

In my mind, I thought this episode came later in the season, after we’d seen more of the Jem’Hadar, and that Odo had spent more time with the boy, trying to guide him to more rounded way of life. In fact, as with many Star Trek stories that could easily have accommodated more depth, this one is constrained by the episodic format into clipping along at a fair pace through its forty-two minute runtime.

That’s not to say it isn’t good. If you can get over the weird hair that the Jem’Hadar boy has going on, it’s a decent episode that works on two fronts. First, you have the classic Star Trek morality bit, as Odo tries to give the boy the same chances that anyone in the Federation might have – that of living a fulfilling life not bound by any one particular imperative. Unfortunately, he cannot succeed, because his own people have genetically engineering the Jem’Hadar for one thing only – combat. The boy simply doesn’t want anything else from his existence. On a more personal front, it’s a chance for Odo of all people to act as a parental figure – he too was once a curiosity from the Gamma Quadrant that people wanted to study in a laboratory, and he definitely doesn’t want the same for this boy.

The Jem’Hadar

The Jem’Hadar have been genetically engineered to be the Dominion’s fighting force – a race of brutal warriors who know and love only fighting and killing. In this episode we learn how the Founders control them – they have been engineered not only to worship their creators as gods, but also to be dependent on a drug that can’t be replicated. In later episodes, we’ll learn that this drug is called ketracel white. Since Founders are often not on the front lines, the drug helps their intermediaries, the Vorta, to retain control of the Jem’Hadar.

  • I guess it’s because of budget constraints, but why did Odo only give the Jem’Hadar a one-on-one fighting holosuite program? I bet he would have loved something where he got to fight many opponents at once – either a 24th century Dynasty Warriors game, or perhaps one of those Klingon programs Quark bought a while back.
  • Similarly, whilst it was necessary for “not putting too much make-up on a baby” and “the crew not knowing what species the alien baby was” reasons, it seems weird that the Jem’Hadar looked mostly human for most of his infancy.
  • It’s unclear exactly how you would genetically engineer ‘basic knowledge’ or worship of the Founders into someone’s genetic code, but then again genetic engineering has always been pretty much magic in the Star Trek universe.
  • If not for the drug dependence, it would have been a nice touch to have sent the Jem’Hadar to go and live with the Klingons, where he could have been with Starfleet’s allies but also indulged his warrior leanings.

Other points

  • Odo now has his own quarters instead of merely resting in his bucket at the back of his security office. In fact, he now eschews the bucket, preferring to use his downtime to ooze about his quarters, taking the shapes of the various geometric objects he has in place of furnishings. Kira is the first guest to see inside his quarters – which is significant, even if she did basically invite herself in.
  • The Boslic captain who sells Quark the wreckage is the same one who passed on Li’s earring way back at the start of season two. She is one of the few traders still brave enough to visit the Gamma Quadrant.
  • Jake’s girlfriend finally comes over for dinner, as promised in season two. Everyone pronounces her name “Marta” even though it’s apparently spelt Mardah.
  • Sisko’s delight over holding the baby Jem’Hadar (before everyone knew he was such) is a nice touch. Usually it’s women who are depicted as broody and baby-obsessed, so to show that men can actually care for infants and take delight in them is a positive message to send. It’s entirely appropriate for the future Star Trek should depict, rather than the heteronormative, gender stereotypical one it often does depict.

Summary – The Abandoned: Not even Odo can tame a Jem’Hadar.

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