Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Abandoned"

***

Air date: 10/31/1994
Written by D. Thomas Maio and Steve Warnek
Directed by Avery Brooks

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Is that all you can think about? Killing? Isn't there anything else you care about?"
"I don't think so."

— Odo and unnamed Jem'Hadar

The writers further affirm that they really know what they're doing with their characters when Odo tries to teach an orphaned Jem'Hadar about human values and the opportunities of life.

A tad derivative as far as philosophical content goes; nevertheless, "The Abandoned" features some thoughtful dialogue about equality and the individual's role in life. What works best is some more development of Odo's character—the first of hopefully many follow-up stories to Odo's outing in "The Search."

Most notably, Odo moves into his own quarters and abandons his pail. His quarters serve him a private place where he can freely revert to his liquid form and be a shapeshifter. Secondly, Odo's attempt to teach the Jem'Hadar adolescent (Bumper Robinson) that there is more to life than fighting proves to be an attempt at relieving some responsibility he feels for the wrongdoings of his race.

It all begins when Quark buys some wreckage from an acquaintance and gets more than he bargained for when he finds a baby in a stasis chamber among the junk. At first, the crew has no idea what species the humanoid infant is. Bashir watches over the boy in the infirmary.

Sisko goes into the infirmary and picks up the baby and then tells Dax how much he misses holding Jake. This dialogue is a bit ho-hum on its own, but it makes sense in the context of the episode's B-story in which Sisko tries to deal with his son dating a Dabo Girl that's four years older.

There's a humorous scene where Jake and his girlfriend Marta (Jill Sayre) have dinner with the old man. Sisko, who has already decided the age-gapped relationship should end, finds he has to question his initial reaction after he gets to know the girl.

Back in the A-storyline, the mysterious infant exhibits very rapid growth, reaching adolescence in a matter of hours. Even more impressive, he comprehends language almost instantly—apparently a biologically programmed trait. Before long, the crew discovers the boy is a Jem'Hadar. He escapes the infirmary and begins causing problems on the station.

This is when Odo decides to look after the Jem'Hadar, who has an instinctual implant compelling him to obey all shapeshifters. Odo tries to teach the Jem'Hadar that he can make his own choices, and that he doesn't have to be a killing machine that only answers to his instinct and to shapeshifters.

Odo even lets the kid exercise his desire for violence by giving him a holographic combat opponent. This is where the script fully realizes the point of the episode—that Odo's attempts are pointless—as the Jem'Hadar furiously fights and fights, constantly raising the strength of the simulation. After leaving the holosuite, the Jem'Hadar brags that everyone should be afraid of him because he could kill any of them. His instinct tells him that anyone who isn't a Jem'Hadar is inferior to him. It becomes obvious Odo's attempts will ultimately fail.

Another thing "The Abandoned" does effectively is further develop the Jem'Hadar as a Federation threat. We learn the Jem'Hadar not only have dangerous technology but are also a dangerous race of biological engineering—a race of preprogrammed killers who only take a matter of days after birth to fully develop, learn and join the ranks of warriors. It would be quite a confrontation if the Founders decided to indeed "impose order in the Alpha Quadrant."

Previous episode: Second Skin
Next episode: Civil Defense

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15 comments on this review

Jeff O'Connor - Wed, Oct 20, 2010 - 1:07pm (USA Central)
Just wrote my review for this one and I agree with a lot of what I've read here. Great episode. I felt it was a little plodding and cliche in the beginning, but really opens itself up once Odo enters the picture.
Comp625 - Thu, Jan 17, 2013 - 1:39pm (USA Central)
In my opinion, this is such an underrated episode -- but probably because there are so many really good Federation/Jem'Hadar episodes that this one gets somewhat lost in the shadow.

Upon our DS9 series rewatch, my girlfriend and I easily drew comparisons to "I, Hugh" from TNG; the crew discovers a seemingly innocent being from an enemy race and tries to befriend it. The similarities end once it is realized that the Jem'Hadar are soul-less killing machines and can't be reprogramed or reasoned with. I also appreciate how the Jem'Hadar boy serves as a reflection of DS9's darker tones, unlike Hugh's friendliness reflecting TNG's ubiquitous optimism .This adds depth to the seriousness of the Jem'Hadar threat.

Furthermore, it is also a great way for the DS9 crew (and the viewers) to learn about the Jem'Hadar's biological addiction to that serum. I know this plays a huge part in future episodes, but also re-affirms the Founders' control over the Jem'Hadar. The Jem'Hadar's inability to think outside of killing is also vastly fascinating, and it gives you that sense of insecurity, much like the Borg and their own ruthless mannerisms.

My main nitpick is that, unlike "I, Hugh," the DS9 crew doesn't even attempt to name the Jem'Hadar. I understand the DS9 crew's reluctance to do so, much like TNG was apprehensive to name Hugh. However, Trek has always been wonderful at showcasing human compassion even in the darkest of times. One can argue that it is a further reflection of the series' darker tones, and that the DS9 crew is imperfect in their decisions. However, the lack of attempt left me a bit odd.

That nitpick aside, I am surprised this episode only received a 3. I think it is subjectively deserving of a 3.5 out of 4; not a gloriously perfect episode, but a great "foundational" one that provides more depth into the Dominion story arc.

My rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
T'Paul - Thu, Jul 4, 2013 - 3:46pm (USA Central)
I also agree that it was worth a 3.5/4...

A great way to introduce aspects of the Jem'Hadar and also to show developments in Odo's personality, and how he is grasping both being a shapeshifter and a founder.

As someone above said to, an interesting contrast with "I-Borg" that highlights the differences between DS9 and TNG.
ProgHead777 - Tue, Jul 16, 2013 - 10:43pm (USA Central)
The only gripe I have about this episode is how it introduces and describes the Ketracel White (though it isn't called that yet). Throughout the rest of the series, Ketracel is referred to as a "drug" that Jem'Hadar are addicted to. But in this episode, it's established that the ketracel is something the Jem'Hadar require for the proper functioning of their biology. In that sense, it's actually an essential nutrient rather than an addictive, narcotic chemical. The Jem'Hadar are no more "addicted" to Ketracel than human beings are "addicted" to vitamin C. Ketracel withdrawal is analogous to scurvy, which is fatal if left untreated.

Not that that changes the fact that the need for Ketracel was deliberately engineered in order for the Founders and the Vorta to maintain absolute control of the Jem'Hadar. I just wonder why everyone insisted on calling it a drug when it clearly wasn't.

The above is really just nitpicking, by the way. This was a very good episode.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 6:38pm (USA Central)

An ok episode that gives us some background on the Jem Hadar.

5/10
Nissa - Tue, Feb 4, 2014 - 10:33pm (USA Central)
Am I the only one who thought this episode was boring as all get out?
Andrew Taylor - Mon, Mar 3, 2014 - 5:48pm (USA Central)
I loved it sorry. It was a great show for Odo, and more development of the Dominion was welcome after The Search Part 2's letdown.

The B story of Sisko seeing how quickly Jake was growing up was very sweet too.
Yanks - Thu, Jul 17, 2014 - 7:11am (USA Central)
Good story providing the backstory for the Jem'Hadar.

One pretty significant plot hole (I think). Bashir satisfies this Jem'Hadar with triglycerides... I thought later, when Bashir and Obrien are stranded on a planet with a squad of Jem-Hadar with a limited white supply he wasn't able to help them at all.

I also thought it was pretty cheesy that the Jem'Hadar's clothes to include that tube going into his artery were part of his genetics, growing with him. But hey, genetic transporters don't seen to be an issue :-)

I thought Odo's desire to help him was genuine. But I can't side with Sisko not sending him to Star Fleet for testing. Major screw up on Sisko's part here.

2.5 stars for me.
Tgor - Mon, Jul 28, 2014 - 11:24pm (USA Central)
Yanks, I think it was right for Sisko to not send him to Star Fleet. He's a sentient person who has comitted no crime. Sisko can't morally send him against his will, especially when he would harm others to escape. That's kidnapping. Plus, the Federation at this time isn't in an official war. It is hard to justify kidnapping a person just for science.
Yanks - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 6:31am (USA Central)
Good point Tgor.

I don't think the reason Star Fleet wanted him was "for science". They saw the Dominion as a future threat, and the Jem'Hadar were the ruthless enforcers. They wanted intel. They wanted to develop an answer for them when/if they come-a-knocking.

Also, how "sentient" was he really? Genetically bread to fight? He admittedly had one purpose and one purpose only... to fight... interesting question.
Robert - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 8:28am (USA Central)
"Also, how "sentient" was he really? Genetically bread to fight? He admittedly had one purpose and one purpose only... to fight... interesting question. "

To throw my 2 cents in, this is how I view the Jem'Hadar's sentience.

They have base instincts (to revere a Founder, bloodlust, etc.) and we have base instincts (sex, violence, fear). I'm sure everyone has felt a tug of their instincts at one point. Sure, we CAN control/rise above our base instincts. But so can the Jem'Hadar. We've seen some of them rebel, look for a cure for the white, etc.

If instincts are typically a little voice in your head telling you to punch out the guy that just bumped into you (there was a Voyager episode about that!) or to run away from something that goes bump in the night... occasionally that little voice gets loud. I feel like whatever the Founders did to the Jem'Hadar the little voice is more like a SCREAM.

We've seen too many episodes of Jem'Hadar (albeit later in the series than this one) exhibiting a level of free thought that I have to believe their programming are just really, really powerful instincts coupled with drugs. If I dialed your instincts up to 100 and put you on drugs you'd find it very hard not to act like a caveman. The Jem'Hadar are definitely sentient, they've just been genetically abused beyond all recognition that sometimes it's easier to think of them as machines.
Yanks - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 9:10am (USA Central)
@ Robert.

Agree, but at this time in the series all we know that the Jem'Hadar are genetically bread to kill, and willfully "comply" if you will. Here, we get to see one from "birth" and those urges can't even be controlled by a Founder (Odo). He was obedient, but the "fire" just kept burning hotter and hotter. We learn more as the series progresses, but we also learn that "victory is life" is their motto.

I can think of 2 episodes where we see "dissention". One where the #1 doesn't require the white and led his troops to strive for the same. This doesn't happen if the #1 requires it. The other is where a band of Jem'Hadar break free to search for and acquire Iconian technology, and it wasn't to ensure peace throughout the galaxy either. I think the inability to control the urge to kill would put them in a classification like an animal. A dog is obedient, but we don’t treat them like a sentient human being.

So I'm not sure I see any ability to limit that built in urge aside from the military obedience that's programmed in.

Remember, in "The Search PII" the head Founder states that the Alpha Quadrant could use some order. That can mean only one thing from a Founder.

I still say Sisko was wrong here and Star Fleet was right in this case.
Robert - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 9:31am (USA Central)
This was clearly meant to be DS9's "I, Borg". Is it right to use a sentient being as a weapon to destroy their people against their will? In Hugh's episode the individual was a little more of an individual, the race a little less and the weapon was a little more high stakes (obviously Starfleet wants to develop tactics against the Jem'Hadar using this guy, but the TNG crew were talking about wiping out the Borg entirely... though I am skeptical that it would have worked, it seemed too powerful). But it's still largely the same episode. In both cases the Captain made the same choice (although Sisko's hands ended up a bit more tied) and in both cases Starfleet disagreed. I don't know that I personally have an opinion as to what I'd do in their shoes, but it's still an interesting episode, no matter which show it's on.
Robert - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 9:40am (USA Central)
"So I'm not sure I see any ability to limit that built in urge aside from the military obedience that's programmed in."

If they can make even a single decision against their programming, I'd still say that implies sentience. Star Trek has supported this in the past with AIs, I don't know why it'd be different with biologically programmed things.

"EMH: While I was aboard that ship I poisoned a man.
SEVEN: Deliberately?
EMH: Yes. I was trying to force him to let me treat patients who were dying.
SEVEN: You were prepared to sacrifice an individual to benefit a collective.
EMH: No offence, Seven, but I don't exactly aspire to Borg ideals.
SEVEN: You were hoping your behaviour was the result of a malfunction. I'm sorry Doctor, but I must give you a clean bill of health. "

There was also the scene where Data was shooting Fajo and then lied to Riker about it. Both things truly hint that when an AI can override key aspects of their own program like that, that they are truly sentient.
Yanks - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 11:18am (USA Central)
@ Robert.

Disagree.

We never got this or any indication of this from the Jem'Hadar "child".

"PICARD: You will assist us to assimilate this vessel. You are Borg. You will assist us.
BORG: I will not.
PICARD: What did you say?
BORG: I will not assist you.
PICARD: I?
BORG: Geordi must not be assimilated.
PICARD: But you are Borg.
BORG: No. I am Hugh."

It's easy to make these episode comparisons (folks do it incorrectly with 'Children of Time’ and ‘E2’ all the time (pun intended :-)), but this episode is really in no way like 'I Borg'.

The fact is, had Hugh not said "I", his Borg butt was getting injected and going on to unknowingly perform genocide.

Sisko was not ever going to do something like that, he was simply ordered by Star Fleet to provide a sample for observation and testing to help prepare for the inevitable. Hell, Star Fleet would never have killed the Jem'Hadar unless he got out and was killing other folks...

We saw nothing from this Jem'Hadar that would indicate anything other than what he was "programmed" for. A vicious killing machine that was designed (programmed) to kill anyone but the Founders. Hell, the only reason they don’t kill the Vorta is they provide the white.

It wasn't for lack of trying, Odo gave the effort, but to no avail.

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