Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Odo The Mentor: "The Abandoned"

The Good: Interesting character development, Good acting, Further development of the villainous Jem'Hadar
The Bad: The feeling like we've been here before
The Basics: When a Jem'Hadar youth begins to grow up on the station, Odo must play the role of a mentor to help him develop in “The Abandoned.”

It's a fairly amazing thing that a television series like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, that worked so well on its originality and the merits of its ongoing plot would sink into reusing ideas generated from the previous two incarnations of Star Trek. And yet, with "The Abandoned," this is essentially what Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is doing. One of the less successful episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation was "Suddenly Human" which was essentially a reworking of the Star Trek episode "Charlie X." Here the essentially same plot is reworked again with about as much success as the previous two incarnations.

"The Abandoned" explores the wreckage of a ship Quark purchased and along with it, a life form. The life form quickly begins to grow at an accelerated rate and the unidentified creature is soon revealed to be a Jem'Hadar soldier. The much-feared warriors of the Dominion have an intrinsic belief in the Founders, of which Odo is the next best thing. Odo, determined to believe in the young Jem'Hadar attempts to counsel the youth and help him develop into something other than the killing machine that he is.

"The Abandoned" is far away enough from "Suddenly Human" and "Charlie X" as to not be immediately recognizable, but from the first viewing and especially upon repeated viewings, there is the feeling that we, the viewers, have been here before. We recognize the essential plot and our only real question after the boy is revealed to be Jem'Hadar is "Will Odo be successful or not?" After a few viewings, it's hard to care about that even.

However, the episode is not all bad. On the plus side, the acting is good. Rene Auberjonois plays Odo with more compassion than we have previously witnessed (outside the climax to "Vortex") and this works well as an entirely new facet of Odo's character is explored. Rene does an excellent job of making Odo both compassionate to the young Jem'Hadar's needs as well as desperately self-serving. Odo's motives must be questioned and Rene does an excellent job of playing the scenes where Odo explicitly states his motives with some ambiguity that makes the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine connoisseur ask, "Can we trust him here?"

Perhaps as cool is what the viewer learns about the Jem'Hadar in this episode. Since their first appearance, the villainous Jem'Hadar have been something of a mystery. Here we learn that they are the product of genetic engineering, are addicted to an isomorphic enzyme and a key fact is learned about their personal cloaking technology.

As well, this episode features a b-plot of Jake's dabo-girl girlfriend, Mardah as well as the directoral debut of Avery Brooks. "The Abandoned" fleshes Mardah out as someone other than a busty chick that Jake is after and does it very well in the setting of the previously proposed dinner between Mardah and the Siskos.

Avery makes an auspicious outing, giving "The Abandoned" a very clear look and feel, varying the cameras so at times we actually see through the young Jem'Hadar's eyes.

But, in the end, this is something we have seen and it ends up feeling that way. While Odo and Jake progress and grow as characters, the effect does not seem to last with either; it is quite some time before Odo explores his role as parent or role model and this marks the final time we see Mardah, so Jake's growth as a man and in a relationship seems almost pointless. We expect better from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine than a reused idea, even if it is providing some important clues for the series.

Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the volume of information Odo and Bashir gather on the Jem'Hadar, this episode is ultimately disappointing.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Third Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the breakout season by clicking here!


See how this episode stacks up against others in the Star Trek franchise through my list of episode Best To Worst available here!

© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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