Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Forsaken"

**1/2

Air date: 5/22/1993
Teleplay by Don Carlos Dunaway and Michael Piller
Story by Jim Trombetta
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The Forsaken," much like "The Storyteller" and "The Passenger," highlights how DS9 can deliver with character insight and development almost every time, even when the plotline fails to be remotely compelling. In this case, a computerized "entity" invades the computer system and causes problems throughout the station. Included in these problems is Odo and Lwaxana Troi being stuck in a turbolift—an unlikely character combination that provides a surprising amount of well-realized characterization.

Lwaxana's lusting after the understandably frightened Odo is initially annoying, but it slowly mellows into reasonable dialog that's unexpectedly affecting. The episode opens the door to some of Odo's mysterious backstory, and shows the constable in a moment of weakened personal pride. Lwaxana's reaction to the situation is nicely handled.

Also entertaining is the always-reliable Meaney as an O'Brien frustrated with a hopeless computer system, as well the notion of Sisko passing off the duty of entertaining visiting ambassadors to an unfortunate Doctor Bashir. What doesn't work here is the completely routine computer-induced mania and its predictable wrap-up, and the unnecessary imperilment of Bashir and the ambassadors in the lackluster finale. The characters work, but the story lacks originality.

Previous episode: If Wishes Were Horses
Next episode: Dramatis Personae

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17 comments on this review

Cail Corishev - Wed, Sep 12, 2012 - 9:16pm (USA Central)
Lwaxana is really charming here, and compared to some of her later appearances, almost understated. Her scenes with Odo in the elevator are excellent.

Good thing, too, because the rest is completely forgettable. I wince every time I hear someone talk about "uploading" data as if it destroys the old copy (Voyager was very bad about this with the doctor). No, uploading the data back to the probe wasn't going to make the virus go along, and even in 1993 we should have known better.
Chris - Sun, Apr 7, 2013 - 10:57pm (USA Central)
Yes, there's a lot of talk about the physics of Star Trek (even a book). But the worst kind of science in Star Trek is computer science.
Van_Patten - Wed, May 15, 2013 - 4:16pm (USA Central)
The First appearance of Lwaxana Troi on Deep Space 9 - hardly one of fandom's most well-recalled characters, although I have to confess whilst she had her fair share of total clunkers:(Anyone want to watch 'Manhunt' or 'Cost of Living' - thought not!) - she could be at least tolerable, 'Haven' or 'Half a Life' whilst not series high points were at least watchable. This, whilst not a must -see episode actually holds up quite well.

The basic plot is two fold - a computer anomaly invades the station and various mechanical and computer problems ensue. Leaving aside the weakness of the technical issues, this really does betray a lack of imagination on the part of the writer - I appreciate the Static setting makes the kind of adventures TNG had difficult to replicate (And part of the brief was to make this a different show from its forebear) but it really didn't work, and comes across as more than a little tedious.

The secondary plot involves the visit to the station of four Alien ambassadors, amongst whom is Lwaxana Troi - these are assigned to Bashir by Sisko who then delights in the Doctor's obvious discomfiture. As mentioned by Jammer, unarguably the highlights are the scenes involving Barrett and Auberjonois which really work, giving us a good insight into Lwaxana's character. It almost seems superfluous to praise Rene Auberjonois but his performance is consistently amongst the highlights of the First Season. The opening scene:

'When did you join Starfleet?'
'Dopterians are distant cousins of the Ferengi. Since you couldn't read Quark, it made sense you couldn't read this charming fellow either'

are dialogue highlights from what is an otherwise inoffensive but largely forgettable episode. Agree with the 2.5 star rating. Some good character points but ultimately not one to linger in the memory.
grumpy_otter - Thu, May 30, 2013 - 7:43pm (USA Central)
Odod continues to impress, but it is hard for me to watch Lwaxana episodes anymore--it just makes me miss Majel. This episode is a perfect example of how her character, when properly handled, was one of the most wonderful to ever come out of TNG.

I think if more people were like Lwaxana, as Majel portrayed her, the world would be a better place. It would have more joy, more fun, more vivacity, and more sex.

What could be wrong with that?
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 30, 2013 - 6:05pm (USA Central)
Yes, this is perhaps one of the most sympathetic portrayals of Lwaxana, the person behind the bubbliness, and perhaps an insight as to why she is the way she is... it's a shame her romance with Odo didn't grow, I think they make a lovely couple, much more so than Odo's later love interest (whom I won't name for those who don't know!)

And it is a shame she's no longer with us...
ZurielSeven - Fri, Aug 2, 2013 - 2:52pm (USA Central)
This episode marks one of the few times we get to see a Vulcan really put his foot in his mouth. :-)
azcats - Tue, Sep 10, 2013 - 3:40pm (USA Central)
best lwaxana show there is. she is usually so annoying.

speaking of computer science..

someone should tell her she sounds like a "computer...."
Snitch - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 8:46pm (USA Central)
I always liked Lwaxana on TNG, never got all the dislike from some fans. This episode works in the parts with her and Odo. Most of the other stuff is just filler.

2 Stars
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 2:06pm (USA Central)

Considering the appearance of Lwaxana, it could have been a lot worse. A "meh" episode overall. Watchable but not good.

4/10
Paul - Thu, Feb 13, 2014 - 10:40am (USA Central)
I think this is a good example of why some ST fans never warmed up to DS9. The first season was really uneven and episodes like this were just dull and bad.

The worst part of this episode is the overacting/overwriting in the Bashir subplot. Until the very end, Bashir just looks like an idiot and the ambassadors look like assholes. Also, I don't really buy Sisko completely ignoring the ambassadors. The way the episode plays, it's as if they visited the station with no set agenda (even before the emergency).

The O'Brien stuff is also fairly boring as far as O'Brien stuff goes. I guess the "pup" is an interesting sci-fi concept, but watching O'Brien and Dax jockey for ways to fix the problem in this episode is really dull.

The Odo/Lwaxana stuff is actually the best part of the episode, though Odo's discomfort is over the top initially. Lwaxana never bothered me the way she bothered some fans. She can be funny in the right situations and interesting in others.

This is clearly an example of DS9 still getting it's footing, something I don't think it really did until "The Maquis" in the second season.
Yanks - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 1:44pm (USA Central)
This is one of those stupid episodes that I really like.

Forget the whole computer thing; forget Bashir and Sisko overacting, etc, blah-blah…

The whole episode is watchable for me because of the Lwaxana/Odo moments. So well done. The light comedy before the elevator failure was fantastic. The two play great off each other so well and their moments were genuinely touching heartfelt. Odo is understanding and comforts her when she states she needs to talk and she undresses herself when Odo is falling apart. I almost cried when she took off her wig.

LWAXANA: It looks ordinary. I've never cared to be ordinary. So you see, Odo, even us non-shape-shifters have to change who we are once in a while.
ODO: You are not at all what I expected.
LWAXANA: No one's ever paid me a greater compliment.

Both reveal themselves to each other.

At this point in the series I’m wonder just how good of an actor is Rene Auberjonois? It seems that whomever he is paired up with during a scene is fantastic.

3.0 stars for me.
Elliott - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 2:40pm (USA Central)
Teaser : **.5, 5%

One little nit—why are ambassadors needed for a “fact-finding mission to the wormhole”? Aren't ambassadors charged with dealing with people, not “facts.” Sisko sticks Bashir with the task of carting them around. One of the four is Lwaxana Troi, who is sporting a hot pink hairdo that would make the local drag queens jealous. She ends up being robbed of a brooch and acknowledges that “Ménage à Troi” happened (ick) and that she knows where it hurts on Ferengis (double ick). Odo intervenes and manages to track down the thief using racism. Troi, in typical fashion, takes a shining to Odo.

Act 1 : **, 17%

So we get a cute little scene with O'Brien losing his patience (understandably) with the Cardassian computer. One bit I really liked was the use of the idiom “root canal.” Sisko is unfamiliar with the term (because the dental procedure is obsolete), but the idiom survives in an unrelated field, engineering. Miles doesn't know where it came from, but still uses it. It's an imaginative idea, instead of the usual replace-current-object-with-space-object approach to these matters (“quiet as a Maldorvian field-mouse”). O'Brien intends on totally refitting the system and receives Sisko's blessing. His good deed is rewarded by Bashir and the ambassadors cornering him and complaining about, well, basically everything (including the Wormhole special effect).

A probe emerges from said effect. We get another slap to the Vulcans—why would a logical being 1) presume to interfere in Station operations and 2) not recognise a Trill when he sees one. He's a freaking ambassador! They tow the probe in and Sisko sends the ambassadors away.

Lwaxana tracks Odo down in his office and starts hitting on him. It's the usual superficial kind of nonsense we often get with Trek flirtation scenes. I seriously wonder sometimes if any of the writers have had to flirt, or date or have sex. Or maybe it's the result of trying to portray adult relationships in a “family-friendly” way. Either way, it's usually bland, uncomfortable and incredibly sexist (it's almost always the woman who throws herself at the man).

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

O'Brien is pleasantly surprised that the computer seems to be cooperating for once. It's nice to see him smile.

Odo approaches Sisko for help in fending off Lwaxana (“have you tried punching her in the face?”). Back-tracking on the imaginativeness from Act I, we get a “Winoni Trace Hound” simile. Sigh.

The episode is fluffy enough that I can take some time for another tangent. Why is it the writers always have to justify romance with procreation? I mean come on, do you really think Kirk was looking to make half-green babies? I often get this very fundamentalist vibe when they tackle sexuality in this era; if it's not holosuite debauchery (which our noble characters would never partake in), then it's all just about having babies, reciting poetry and other clichés. Can't a noble character just want to get laid? No one ever hooks up on Trek anymore. It's all, cut-and-paste flirting leads to dating leads to marriage leads to babies leads to death.

Anyway, Sisko proves to be unhelpful while Miles continues to see startlingly efficient results from his computers. The probe proves to be *mysterious*.

Lwaxana returns, sporting a third hair style and continues to berate the poor Constable with her babbling (I actually think she was less irritating back on TNG; her lines feel a little bit too much like someone trying to be annoying rather than simply being oblivious to their her own eccentricity). I do like the “I can swim” in Odo's goo bit, however.

Odo and Lwaxana become trapped in the turbolift due to computer malfunction...with sexy results...

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

I do appreciate that the writers were trying to avoid making Odo look stupid by thinking up all the ways they might escape—the turbolift is down, as are the transporters, and the conduit is charged so he can't shape-shift his way out. It wouldn't really be necessary if the story were more absorbing, and frankly, feels more like a deliberate attempt to circumvent nerd rage than organic storytelling. Just an observation. There's a lot of time for that in this piece.

Lwaxana continues to try and flirt with Odo for a bit. Then we get this very sudden shift in tone, when she proclaims, “I don't think I can [sit quietly].” She tells him that she *needs* to talk. These kinds of people—the kind who never shut up—are unfortunately often very damaged. Chattering is a coping mechanism for dealing with loneliness, or stress, or depression. Lwaxana has always been portrayed has living a rather empty existence. She channels most of her energy into externalities—Deanna, her titles, her riches, her dalliances—but what is she actually about? What are her interests, her goals?

So remember that little joke about Sisko suggesting hitting an ambassador in the face? Turns out that is actually something he's done before. DS9, you can always be counted upon to bring parody to life! Thanks for that.

So, are all the turbolifts down? Is everyone just stuck? O'Brien still can't figure out why the computer isn't functioning, but he thinks the computer has been altered by the probe—it's being too cooperative, too helpful, “like a child” as Sisko puts it. Hmmm

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

I like that there isn't a lot of time spent speculating on “what could this obvious thing be?” They basically come up with a theory, settle on it and move on. Kira hones Sisko's simile from “child” to “puppy” (do Bajorans have dogs?). O'Brien devises a solution, and he's going to need a very big thumb drive.

Meanwhile, Bashir is still saddled with the remaining ambassadors, on the verge of pulling a Sisko.

Poor Odo is on the verge of reverting to his goo-form, while Lwaxana continues to prod. Say what you will about her—she's definitely irritating, but she doesn't just talk about herself. She takes a genuine interest in Odo's past and his life. One gets the feeling that Odo wouldn't ever open up like this if he weren't basically prised open by such a forceful personality as hers. He reveals a few bits about his past—shifting for the pleasure of others, submitting to Dr Mora's (not yet named) experiments. It's a lovely little scene.

The staff pulls a Kirk-outsmarts-the-computer trick by asking for several complicated operations, and the result is...a fireball nearly kills Bashir and the ambassadors. Wow, and you thought Starfleet tech was badly designed.

Act 5 : ***, 17%

“We're going to need a bipolar torch to get through it.” But, Kira, you're already right here! I crack me up.

Here's where the writing really hits a wall. So, we set up this simile about the computer virus being like a stray puppy. Fine, the simile helps create a allegorical framework for understanding it in more familiar terms. But it does NOT license imbuing the lifeform with all the corollary qualities of its simile! Pups don't like to be left alone, so this virus must be the same! Does it also like to pee on the plants? Why not rub its belly? Yeesh.

Odo is on the verge of reverting, and he expresses embarrassment in letting Lwaxana (or anyone) see him in that state. Lwaxana is beautifully sympathetic here, offering her hair piece, admitting that she has “never cared to be ordinary.” Odo lets go and allows her to take of him in his liquid state. It's a tear-jerker.

O'Brien manages to house his pup and allow the rescue team to reach Bashir and the ambassadors, who end up being singularly impressed by the young doctor's heroism (I actually thought Bashir was going to end up punching one of them).

Lwaxana leaves on a high note and O'Brien decides to keep the “pup” around. Not a terrible ending.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

I'm feeling a bit generous with this one. The plot about the “pup” is borderline stupid, but it's handled in a mostly subdued way, which really helps, and we're spared any histrionics. The Bashir stuff is rather pointless, but I guess since they booked the guest stars they had to do something with them. The Lwaxana-Odo stuff is, I'd say second shelf, but there are some great performances from Barret and Auberjonois (as usual), as well as making smart use of both their backstories. It would have been nice if they had been able to write a full-fledged character piece, locking Odo and Lwaxana in the turbolift for several acts with some more developed conversation and insight.

Final Score : ***
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 4:52pm (USA Central)
Did the math wrong on this.

Final Score should be **.5
MsV - Mon, Apr 6, 2015 - 3:46am (USA Central)
I really enjoyed this episode,not serious, just fun to watch. With the exception of Odo, I enjoyed everyone else. He seemed to have difficulty understanding humanoid behavior, especially when it came to mating or dating. No wonder he was alone, he was clueless, sarcastic and rude. He was supposed to be a great observer of humanoids, he couldn't understand them. I have to admit I didn't care for him in the first season. Odo along with Kira was my least favorite characters on the show, at least initially. Odo grew on me in the second season, Kira took longer.
MsV - Thu, Apr 16, 2015 - 1:41am (USA Central)
I loved Lwaxanna's dresses. The one she wore when she started flirting with him in his office. All of those swirls were in the right places, all on a sheer back. She may have been annoying on both TNG and DS9, but she looked great. Mrs Roddenbury was in her 60's twenty years ago.
Nathan B. - Wed, Jul 8, 2015 - 6:23pm (USA Central)
Lwaxana Troi has always been my favourite character in the Trek universe. She's an absolute delight to watch. Her scenes in TNG's "Half a Life" made that my all-time favorite Trek episode.

Here, her turbo lift scenes with Odo make this episode very endearing. You have a gruff, proud lawman turned into literal and figurative putty in the hands of a very lonely, but worthy woman. The circumstances of the stuck elevator allow them to be vulnerable to each other, not as a couple, but as friends. Very touching.
William B - Thu, Jul 16, 2015 - 9:01pm (USA Central)
Forsaken: abandoned, left behind. The "pup" is fairly consistent with the flexible rules for AI within the Trek universe, though in spite of the pleasure in seeing Meaney play O'Brien's frustration the pup plot doesn't generate much interest (and certainly not much suspense). If it is some a computer AI that's a non-sentient life form, wouldn't someone be interested in it as something other than a new pet for O'Brien to keep safe in the station computers?

The pup, which came through the wormhole and clings to the station for dear life, wreaking havoc, is a clue to where the episode's real emotional heart lies, in the Odo/Lwaxana plot: Odo, like the pup, came through the wormhole and settled onto the station, alone and fragile; like Lwaxana, it becomes a pest, demanding attention to soothe its own loneliness, until finally it is paid the proper type of attention. (In some ways, this particular structure reminds me of "Galaxy's Child," which similarly had a space child/animal cling to the Enterprise as its "mother" while Geordi's clingy behaviour put Leah off.)

As Elliott says, Lwaxana's constant chatter (and inability to stop) do seem to have something to do with her damaged psyche; as Nathan B. says, Odo literally and figuratively turns to putty before her. While Picard, another private man, did indeed have some thawing to do of his own over the course of the series, Picard's somewhat aloof stance and his privacy are mostly the result of his personality and choices rather than a direct response to emotional damage, fear, misanthropy and alienation from other living beings -- which makes some sense of why Lwaxana's attaching herself to Odo ends up being much more beneficial to both than her largely unrequited thing for Jean-Luc. Odo largely claims that his desire is not to participate too closely in human(oid) customs except that which coincides with his work, but Lwaxana's pushiness (and the circumstances of the turbolift) allow her to get through to the pain underlying this. "I hate parties," Odo says, and his cynical, hard-boiled attitude about solids becomes more and more a defensive shield to protect him from being used, "liked" only insofar as he can provide services and entertainments; doing a job, at least, gives him a clearly-defined niche where it is expected that he will be liked and appreciated directly as a result of his ability to perform that job, and can leave behind those fuzzy affectionate feelings that humanoids can have for each other, and take for granted. Poor Odo -- Odo, who modeled himself after Dr. Mora and yet insists that this man never cared for him; Odo, who talks almost contemptuously about solids, and what he observes of them, and yet is deeply embarrassed for anyone to see him in his true gelatinous state; Odo, who has the ability to take on any shape, and sticks to a single form approximating a Bajoran man almost all the time. I think that Lwaxana's probing questions get to the contradiction in Odo, his keeping people at a distance because of his expectations of disappointment, and yet his desire to stay somehow part of the solid community even as he refuses to be too much a part of it. The regeneration cycle is a good device to put this all to a head -- Odo's need to regenerate is about the impossibility of holding on to his solid form, with all the attendant rigidity, dignity, and incorruptibility; Lwaxana gives him permission to stop holding himself together.

This is one of the better Lwaxana episodes; I think I'd put it below "Half a Life" and above "Haven" (which is not really a Lwaxana episode) and, as a consequence, way above any other Lwaxana episode. Lwaxana's admission that she never much cared for being ordinary suggests part of what she finds attractive about Odo; Odo's fear of being his full gooey self mirrors Lwaxana's fear of being stuck in one identity, one hairstyle, one (aging) body. "Half a Life" was about mortality; "Cost of Living" had Lwaxana bonding with a child and rejecting the terms on which she might be able to have a marriage; and the following episode after this has her facing the loss of her (other) daughter, which may have something to do with her desire to fill the void with her flamboyant personality. Her identification with Odo who is in many respects still a lost boy, cut off from his family, may, along with Lwaxana's recognition of something kindred in Alexander, represent positive steps in her coming to terms with the big loss she suffered, the daughter she (in her mind) failed and let die. I'm not a fan of either "Cost of Living" or "Dark Page," but this episode does maybe fit in with the story told there.

I do think that the first...I don't know, half? third? of the Lwaxana/Odo material is fairly typical "Lwaxana annoys, man runs" stuff which doesn't really work in any episode (one of the reasons I like "Half a Life" is that it allows a romance in which someone is charmed by Lwaxana and so we don't have to go through the same motions that we get so frequently with Lwaxana/Jean-Luc), but once they are trapped in the turbolift things get interesting and eventually touching. The ending, while a bit silly -- how strong is that dress that it can definitely hold liquid-Odo from electrocution? -- is a nice visual cap.

Oh yeah also Bashir impresses some ambassadors. Bashir trying to spin things as part of the frontier adventure narrative is mildly amusing.

A high 2.5 stars.

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