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DS9 3-06

DS9 3x06
"The Abandoned"

Original airdate: 10/31/1994
Rewatch date: 7/23/2013

A baby Jem'Hadar is recovered from the Gamma Quadrant, and Odo attempts to show him that there is more to life than killing for the Dominion.

Spoiler-free notes:

Jake's girlfriend has some serious boobs in some kind of gravity-defying harness that must only exist in the 24th Century.

Right at the beginning, this story picks up some loose threads from earlier episodes. There is Jake's girlfriend, Martah, and Jake's promise to his father to have her over for dinner, from "Playing God," and then there's the return of the Boslic freighter captain who gave Quark Li Nalas' earring in "Homecoming."

It's nice to get a little reminder that Sisko is a father, that he hasn't lost the loving parental joy one can get from babies, by the way he fawns over the infant Jem'Hadar.

There's a disturbing subtext here about children who are raised in a violent environment. Avery Brooks, who directs this episode, believes that the story is about "brown" inner city kids and gang culture, but if you look at it from that point of view, the ending is startling in its message: a kid like this Jem'Hadar cannot be rehabilitated and allowed to live in civil society. Kira tells Odo this much, and in the end, Odo tells Kira that she was right, something that's almost racist in its broader implications. Granted, you could argue, as Brooks does, that the message here is that society is really to blame, that we are responsible for "engineering" violent, drug-addicted young men who are feared, dangerous, and pretty much beyond salvation.

This is an incredibly well-written episode. On the surface, it feels almost identical to TNG's "I, Borg"--it deals with the recovery of one young member of an enemy race and the attempt to instill Federation values on him, only having to give him back in the end, much to the disappointment of Admiral Necheyev--but the differences are far more telling than the similarities. "I, Borg" humanized the Borg and demonstrated a singular weakness, whereas this episode does the exact opposite for the Jem'Hadar. We learn that the Jem'Hadar are genetically engineered warriors who cannot be reprogrammed or molded by virtue--this one doesn't even get a name--and in some ways, that makes them a little more frightening than the Borg. Still, this story is first and foremost about Odo, and how he tries to project his own conflicted, idealistic nature onto the Jem'Hadar boy. We see Odo exploring his new identity following his encounter with the Changelings in "The Search, Part II"--getting his own quarters, abandoning his bucket, etc.--and the Jem'Hadar child seems to offer him the perfect opportunity to teach somebody what he has learned. Alas, he fails to reach the boy because the Jem'Hadar don't operate by the same rules as regular beings. Simultaneously, there is a B-story about Sisko trying and failing to change his son's direction--instead learning more about Jake than he anticipated--which is a lighter version of the same essential concepts. Another important thing to note about this episode is that none of the plotlines really stand alone--this is all development--which solidifies DS9's less episodic and more overarching storytelling paradigm.

DS9 3x05
"Second Skin"
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DS9 3x07
"Civil Defense"
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