Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Begotten"

***

Air date: 1/27/1997
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Constable, why are you talking to your beverage?" — Worf

Nutshell: Some wonderful character insights, but I have mixed feelings about some elements of the subplot and the show's big revelation. Still a very nice episode.

When Quark acquires a "baby" Changeling that has been found floating through space in a lifeless, liquid state, Odo takes it upon himself to "raise" the undeveloped shapeshifter and teach it the benefits of shapeshifting in a hope to help it communicate with and understand the outside world. Meanwhile, Major Kira gives birth to the O'Briens' child.

"The Begotten" is another strong example of a pure character show, courtesy of Rene Echevarria, perhaps the staff's finest writer when it comes to characters. There are no extraneous plot angles here; it's just good actors on some sets delving into the hearts of their characters, looking for some new answers and insights. And what else can I say? For the most part I thought it was great.

There are, however, some things about "The Begotten" of which I'm not really completely certain. One is the revelation dropped on us in the ending (more on that later); the other is the B-story involving the end of Kira's pregnancy (which I'll get out of the way now).

The B-story in "The Begotten" is for the most part an unavoidable (though amiably portrayed) set of cliches. I've been waiting a long time for Major Kira to have this kid so she can get back into the thick of the action (though "The Darkness and the Light" certainly used pregnant Kira without a worry). Part of me had hoped we would return from reruns to find that the baby had been born between shows, but, really, I doubt it's something that the creators would've been willing not to show. It's a necessity of sorts that had to be dealt with. Still, I don't think I really needed as much time and cheese devoted to it as we're treated to in this subplot. The traditional rituals of "rhythm" that Miles, Keiko, and Shakaar assist Kira in are slightly amusing in places, but they often go on for too long; and they're too tongue-in-cheek to be effective as drama, yet too pervasive to make effective comedy. The silly quarrels between Miles and Shakaar are overstated and unnecessary, and Keiko's constant scolding of these "silly men" just isn't very deep material. (I also didn't care that much for Shakaar's rather harsh line to Miles, "Next time you have a baby, leave my girlfriend out of it.")

As compensation, the inevitable birth scene (which I admit I was somewhat dreading) was about as painless as I could've imagined possible. Given that I've seen about eight or nine thousand birth scenes on television in my lifetime, I was glad to see that, being a Bajoran, Kira giving birth managed to display a welcome departure from the standard cliche we've all witnessed time and time again. The actual delivery scene was different enough that I didn't feel the need to cringe in frustration. Instead, it was rather pleasant.

But enough about the B-story. What really matters about "The Begotten" is Odo's dilemma in attempting to teach an infant, inanimate Changeling how to take a new form. What proves most significant about Odo's attempts and actions is that they compose a poignant story about him and his relationship to Dr. Mora (now a Starfleet Changeling analyst who returns to DS9 to offer his help in Odo's efforts). The young Changeling is simply a device for the characterizations. The number one rule in a character show is that it has to reveal the characters' feelings, and "The Begotten" follows this rule perfectly; the results, therefore, are stellar.

I was very pleased to see Dr. Mora again. For those who may not remember, Mora (James Sloyan, who has yet to disappoint on Trek) first appeared in second season's "The Alternate," which revealed his unique but skewed "parent"-like relationship to Odo. Where "Alternate" was held back by a lackluster plot, "Begotten" cuts right to the emotional core. A great deal of tension between these two revealed in "Alternate" is reiterated here; but the feelings are spelled out more explicitly, and the characters do not hide in their dialog.

The key to the episode is Odo's vow not to harm the young shapeshifter the way Mora "harmed" him. Odo intends to proceed differently, using his own methods. He doesn't want to force it to shape-shift by causing discomfort and exposing it to electric shocks and radiation. But, as Mora explains, the shapeshifter will have no desire to move if it doesn't have an incentive; it will simply sit content in its comfortable liquid state.

But Odo is not receptive. He resents that Mora made certain presumptions when running the tests he ran on him. Part of Odo thinks Mora simply found the idea of "playing with a shapeshifting lifeform" interesting. This rather relevant two-sided exchange leads to some well-acted and believable dialog scenes—scenes where Mora and Odo begin shouting at each other like real family members trying to resolve a troubled past. Both Sloyan and Auberjonois deliver strong, genuinely-felt performances that get to the heart of the lack of communication between them.

The beauty of the story is the way it gets into the past of these two people on such an emotionally believable level. It's not a simple matter of who's right and who's wrong. It's a matter of exploring why each feels the way he does, and the way each ultimately comes to understand each other. No, Odo doesn't really think that Mora enjoyed prodding him with gadgets and experiments. But until now, Odo had never said so. He had simply remained silent and obscured, with a bitter disposition. At the same time, Mora's words allow Odo to realize the pressures Mora was under to gain results, lest the Cardassians had taken over his project and made the situation worse for everybody.

The two eventually find a medium ground to work together. Between Odo's attempts at making a mental connection with the Changeling and Mora's use of physical equipment, the two are finally successful in getting the Changeling to form different objects, and finally, in one remarkable scene, the shapeshifter morphs toward Odo and mimics his face.

Odo's reactions to this connection are priceless, as is his enthused talk with Quark (who would've thought Odo would ever buy Quark a drink?). I don't believe I've ever seen Odo smile a genuine smile as much as he does here. The results are refreshing.

It's just too bad that after all this compelling character work that I couldn't feel as good about the ending as I did about everything else. The developments and final revelation in the last act leave me with some mixed feelings about some major Odo issues. The Changeling infant, the plot reveals, is not well. It's dying. And just minutes after Odo thought he had the chance to live vicariously as a shapeshifter through his "child," he's faced with the grim realization that it is not to be.

Now this is another tragic thing to do to Odo, and even I realized that he could not be put through another wringer like this. But I'm still not entirely happy with the sudden twist used to ease Odo's tragedy: Since the Changeling cannot live, it "integrates" itself into Odo, thus giving him back the shapeshifting abilities that the Founders took from him.

This doesn't feel dead-out wrong, by any means; but I did find it... iffy. I will definitely grant that returning Odo's powers in this story makes some plausible plot sense, and some dramatic sense. I like the notion and implications of the dying Changeling deciding to give Odo a "gift"; I like that Odo finds the entire situation difficult, confusing, and ponderous; I like the episode's closing discussion between Odo and Kira (who has her own relevant problem of wanting to hold a baby she has given birth to, but can't because it's not hers). It still, however, feels just a bit easy. It's a magical fix to a problem—Odo's newfound humanity—that I don't think was pondered quite as much as it could've been.

Some of the qualms I have involve the "big picture" of Odo becoming human in the first place. What exactly were the creators trying to say? As Quark put it in "The Ascent," since Odo was human, "Life was his for the taking." Why wasn't this further analyzed? What did Odo want, and what will he want now? Fitting into the "big picture," is this character development, regression, or stagnation? I'm not sure at this point; we'll have to see.

Again, I want to stress that this is not wrong. But I also don't think the surprise ending was necessary or even warranted to get the episode's best points across—that of Mora and Odo's relationship and the issues of their troubled past. The show's true strengths don't ride or even have a complete basis in the final outcome. The payoff could've been reworked to better fit the rest of "Begotten" and perhaps Odo's powers could've been restored in a later episode.

Most people, I'm guessing, will remember this show as "the episode where Odo gets his powers back." I, however, will remember it as the show where Odo better comes to terms with some of his feelings and relationships, as well as his own past and identity.

Previous episode: The Darkeness and the Light
Next episode: For the Uniform

Season Index

31 comments on this review

Blue - Tue, Mar 17, 2009 - 11:29pm (USA Central)
I agree, by giving Odo his powers back, they kinda made his time as a solid meaningless. What did Odo or the show really gain out of it? And the magical gift by a dying changeling baby seemed waaaaaaaay out there. At the very least, shouldn't Odo be infected with the same disease?
Joan - Wed, Jul 22, 2009 - 8:00pm (USA Central)
I would bet that every woman watching this was thinking "what a crock" regarding how easily Kira gave birth. All that palaver with the incense and bells etc and not a twinge throughout the whole thing. Yeah, right. Bajorans would appear to be more or less physiologically similar to humans. Unless their anatomy 'down there' is radically different, having a baby would not be the doddle it is for Bajoran women either.

Also, if giving birth was so easy, the planet would be over-populated in a nano-second.

Wish she had given birth off-screen. I enjoyed the main storyline, but the B story was just awful.
Destructor - Mon, Aug 24, 2009 - 12:30am (USA Central)
I love this episode, a lot, just for the father-son dynamic between Odo and Mora. I'd give it 4 stars, although I agree with Jammer about Odo's 'punishment' from the Founders being a little too short lived.

My question is: Surely the Founder who had replaced Bashir at this point would have done more to keep the changeling baby alive?
J - Sun, Oct 4, 2009 - 2:05pm (USA Central)
I actually bought Kira's pregnancy not hurting her because of the line about endorphins...her body was at one point releasing so many it was poisoning her. Bajoran women *naturally* dope themselves up the wazoo to deal with the birth, but if they still aren't relaxed enough to let it happen, they "miss their chance" or can even "OD." Pretty interesting, and I don't find it too implausible (though the childish behavior of Shakaar was another matter).
Elliot Wilson - Sat, Feb 6, 2010 - 2:34pm (USA Central)

I personally didn't like Dr. Mora. It seems like all he did on the show was try to run more tests on Odo -- all he wanted was to study him again. I didn't like that. Anyone want to comment on this?

And do you, Jammer, really have to look for deeper meanings in Odo's life as a Solid? Does he really have to have a meaningful reason to become a Solid? His people punished him in a way they saw fit. It's like Freud said: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Get over it. :P
Nic - Sun, Mar 7, 2010 - 9:50pm (USA Central)
Apparently, the writers thought that after half a season they would have run out of story material for Odo as a humanoid, but they later regretted changing him back so soon. Maybe in the early sixth season the Female Changeling could have changed him back as an incentive to return home?

I wish Shakaar had appeared in "Rapture" instead of this episode, it would have made the B-story less intrusive.
Jay - Sat, Feb 5, 2011 - 10:02pm (USA Central)
So was the Bashir in this episode really Bashir, or was it the changeling...two episodes later we discover that Julian has been held at a Dominion prison camp for a month. How do the stardates play out?
Nic - Mon, Oct 10, 2011 - 7:21pm (USA Central)
[SPOILER WARNING]:

Jay, yes, the real Julian Bashir was kidnapped before "Rapture" (judging by the uniform he is wearing in the Internment Camp), which means that the Bashir we see in "Rapture", "The Darkness and the Light" and "The Begotten" is his Changeling replacement.
Steve - Sat, Oct 15, 2011 - 8:25pm (USA Central)
I'm no doctor, but if the baby was ready to be born, but then Kira couldn't deliver because of outside stimuli, it's a bit irresponsible and risky to the fetus to wait as much as a few more weeks just to indulge Kira wanting to do it naturally rather than going to Bashir...the very presence of the fetus in Kira means the ship has sailed on natural.
Steve - Sat, Oct 15, 2011 - 8:50pm (USA Central)
Okay, since its chronologically clear that the Bashir in this episode is actually a changeling, nad from what we know of changelings, I find it very difficult to believe that "Bashir" would tolerate the experimentation done on this changeling. I suppose it would be concerned with keeping its cover for now, but I think at the least that "Bashir" would link with it and educate it, perhaps even cure it. That "Bashir" stood by and let it die seemed out of place too.
Matrix - Wed, Nov 2, 2011 - 1:39am (USA Central)
Bashir's new uniform was in the washing machine so he wore one of his old ones.
V - Mon, Dec 19, 2011 - 2:36am (USA Central)
@ people commenting about Bashir being changeling, NOT during this episode. If you listened to the conversation in the beginning of the episode "in purgatory's shadow" they were talking about how the baby was 1 month old. Therefore this Bashir in this episode is the REAL one. The switch didn't happen until after this episode.
Justin - Wed, Mar 28, 2012 - 12:46pm (USA Central)
@ Steve,

Absolutely, and it would have been perfectly in character with the real Bashir if he did everything he possibly could to keep the changeling baby alive. Unfortunately, though, they retconned the whole Bashir gets captured thing. Siddig had no idea until he got the script, and the whole thing was both a wasted opportunity and a too-cute-by-half idea. All they had to do was put the captured Bashir in the new uniform and there'd never by any question as to why the Founder didn't try to save the changeling or how he managed to perform complicated surgery on Sisko.

@V, that explanation doesn't fly. Then they should have put the captured Bashir in the new uniform. It was sloppy writing trying to be too clever.
Paul York - Sun, Jun 3, 2012 - 4:43pm (USA Central)
The Visitor showed the depth of the love between father and son, and this episode showed the same between Mora, Odo and the baby changeling. Good themes to explore - but I did not understand the magical ending - presumably the baby died or was integrated into Odo somehow ... not sure.
Cail Corishev - Tue, Sep 18, 2012 - 6:55pm (USA Central)
I was so glad when Shakaar faded from the show. He's so bad here as the whiny boyfriend.

I assumed that the Founders never intended Odo's punishment to be permanent. Also, I don't see how a baby changeling, that's just becoming aware of its own existence, could turn a humanoid into a changeling. Put those two things together, and it means when the Founders turned Odo human, he wasn't really human, but a changeling stuck in human form with his shapeshifting control somehow blocked. They could have arranged it so that contact with another changeling would "wake up" his cells and restore his changeling-ness. That way one of them could slip up and touch him secretly whenever they decided his punishment was over. The baby changeling beat them to it, but didn't do anything intentionally.

It's a theory, anyway.
Chris - Sat, Nov 10, 2012 - 12:11pm (USA Central)
Just about everyone in the birth storyline was an a**hole, except perhaps for Miles. Kira wanting to have the baby in the Bajoran way no matter what, when the baby isn't even hers, and Keiko acquiescing to it, and Shakaar making like he had more business being there than Miles did, and the frumpy, obnoxious midwife, the whole situation struck me as medically insane, especially when they nonchalantly announce that, because of the squabbling, the clearly fully developed and ready to be born baby will have to spend more days, or weeks!(recalling that the entire gestation of a Bajoran pregnancy was already stated to be just five months) locked in a womb, and Keiko doesn't even raise a concern as to how that might traumatize her child. I was in utter disbelief at it all...
Cyndi - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 11:33pm (USA Central)
This is one of my favorite episodes. Hiccups aside, seeing Odo and Mora finally come to terms with their shared past made everything worth it.

I ended up writing a fix-it fanfic where the baby Changeling finds a way back, much to Odo's surprise!

Also, against the grain, I rather LIKED Kira's birth scene. It's a refreshing change from the typical cliche screaming and panic in a medical setting. She did something akin to hypnobirthing. :)
Kotas - Thu, Oct 24, 2013 - 9:46pm (USA Central)

One of the better Odo episodes.

6/10
Jons - Tue, Feb 4, 2014 - 2:52pm (USA Central)
To the assholes up above: Some people (ie, me) are watching this all for the first time and would like a warning before comments about what happens in later seasons!

Anyway, I loved the Odo-Mora plot. I think it's interesting that as the audience we see Mora's character under a new light. As for now, we only had Odo's interpretation. I liked that we saw more about Mora's feelings ans the difficulty he was put through with Odo.

Nobody said it, but it may also have helped Odo to point out that humanoids put their own infants and children through quite a lot of discomfort to make them evolve: Fixed times for sleeping and eating, house training, refusal to give too much food, forcing them to go to school and learn etc.

The last scene where Mora hugs Odo and expresses that he still wants Odo in his life was really heartbreakingly touching.
Vylora - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 8:44pm (USA Central)
I completely agree that giving away spoilers in a comments section for the show in question is generally not the best idea.

But to be fair to the "assholes" up above - it shouldn't necessarily apply here. This particular show has run its course and did so well over a decade ago. Also, this particular open public forum doesn't have the option to go back and edit any posts, some of which are rather old, to add a warning message.

I appreciate a new fan to a show that I love and further insights on it by any newcomers. I'm thankful for Jammer setting this up for us. But it is what it is and one must be careful with it like most things in life. It doesn't make anyone assholes.

As for this episode - despite a simply okay b-story and the rather abrupt change for Odo...the greatness is once again in character development and interaction with some wonderfully inspired dialogue. I would like to have seen a bit more of the effect of Odo's humanity while being a solid. But that's just personal wishes and not a fault here. I agree with Jammer on the iffy-ness of the baby-changeling's gift.

For the most part still feels like a must-see to me.

3.5 stars.
Eli - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 7:22pm (USA Central)
Great episode! Such an emotional set of stories!
Rob L - Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - 12:36am (USA Central)
I'm with Jons, I love to read these reviews and comments after watching DS9 (for the first time) sequentially, and it really hurts. It is not hard to write "SPOILER" and then hit enter twice...
Vylora - Mon, Apr 21, 2014 - 7:12am (USA Central)
WARNING:

The comments section of Jammers Reviews may contain spoilers on shows that have ended years ago. Some more than a decade ago. Many comments were posted years ago by people that no longer post here.

.................

Just like anything else, internet users should have a bit of common sense when it comes down to it. Don't click on random ads. Don't have the same password for everything. And don't read open-forum comments on ANY show/movie without expecting a spoiler.

As a fan of ST and, especially, DS9...I welcome newcomers to the franchise. I think its fantastic warts and all. I wish nothing but the best possible viewing experience. Nevertheless, entering into a public forum and not expecting a spoiler is naïve at best.
Rivus - Thu, May 8, 2014 - 2:40pm (USA Central)
Still, it would be nice if one could at the very least give proper warning first, maybe some sort of spoiler tag... It's a common courtesy on many other forums. And while, yes, the point is valid that the show ended a decade and a half ago, and most of these later comments probably fall on deaf ears, there's also the fact that many new people are being exposed to the old shows thanks to the entire franchise now being accessible on Netflix. And, considering the new power Netflix has showcased in revitalizing old shows (see: Arrested Development... I know, I know... and the upcoming season 8 of Trailer Park Boys), maybe (and this is a big maybe) we'll finally see a new Trek that isn't entirely a watered-down action film series. Amusingly enough, I'm only here because of a series of events that started with the 2009 reboot and left me wanting more. Also, I like to read the comments when I have the episode fresh in my mind, even if sometimes means being exposed to info I'd rather have missed. It's kind of an addiction.

As for the episode (rather for this point, the two before it), I feel Jammer has been very generous with the stars. Rapture was more of a three-star episode that kind of was dulled slightly by trying to do far too much at once, while so much of The Darkness and the Light focused on very unbelievably-handled situations, although the acting definitely helped it... Which to me is worthy of two-and-a-half stars.

For this episode, I'm sure plenty of us were kind of dreading Kira's eventual birthing, thinking it could be made into another of those weird Trek plots (the baby's not a baby at all! omg it's a caesar salad! an angry one, at that... Dominion stole my... Er, their baby!), but I'm glad it didn't. Instead, the B-plot is probably the best handling we could have hoped for. But I agree, to hell with Shakaar. He's not particularly good at his own job, it seems... Yet he barges in and tells O'Brien he can't even witness his own baby being born. I at least have sympathy for Kira, who has a baby that isn't even hers (even though she signed up for it), and is left with the consequence of having to leave it behind. Which is why I like the way this plot melds with the A-plot in the end, where both Odo and Kira are experiencing loss in VERY different, abstract, but still melancholic ways. Also, Odo never finished his drink before becoming a changeling again! ;_; One thing that intrigues me is Dr. Mora's character, essentially playing the role of a (formerly) abusive father but in a very abstracted DS9 'grey-area' light. Not only that, but this episode provides better insight for why Mora was so harsh in his experiments (though it kind of feels like it soured his first appearance in the second season, where Odo was starting to warm up to him and even said he'd keep in touch. The writers could have at LEAST touched on that in some way. Maybe Odo was just shaken up by his transformation in The Alternate?). For this episode, I'd say that Jammer was on the money.

3 stars.
Eric - Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - 3:44pm (USA Central)
@Destructor: Easy with the spoilers dude!
Carl - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 1:11am (USA Central)
Seems to me the Bashir changeling could have birthed a batch of changeling or brought a container of chilled raw changeling and set it on its course to be found by Odo. The supposed infant changeling could have even engineered its own journey to DS9, it's purpose to give Odo his changeling powers back.

Otherwise, every which way I could have felt about this episode seems to be covered in the above comments
Yanks - Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - 11:28am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this one. Rene does a fine job.

For all we know the Founders planted this little changeling so Quark could find it and give (sell) it to Odo. So with that in mind, having Odo return to his normal shape-shifting self as a result of this little one "joining him" makes sense. At least in my mind.

Just because Odo's sentence wasn't a life sentence doesn't mean it was meaningless.

Odo shedding his clothes and flying through the promenade was a moving one.

I thought the Bajoran birth stuff was origional. I give the writers credit for that.

3 stars.
$G - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 12:21am (USA Central)
At the risk of seeming lazy, I agree with Jammer's review completely. A good episode for Odo that includes some very, very nice moments for him and Dr. Mora. I especially like his scene with Quark, who comes off very nicely here and seems genuinely happy for Odo.

As an interesting aside, Odo seems relatively non-plussed with Kira being in labour. When it comes to his people, Odo becomes extremely focused almost to a fault. First in "The Search" and now here. Odd that he never stops by to check up on Nerys (although the final scene kind of makes up for it).

As for Kira's birth - it was nice, I suppose. I can see where it would strain believability, though. The Shakaar/O'Brien stuff drags this episode down. It's frankly absurd and stupid even for a cheap sitcom. Shakaar comes off very badly here, and I kind of wanted to slug the guy on Miles's behalf for his "leave my girlfriend out of it" comment. Unnecessary drama of the worst kind.

This is a recommended episode for me, not just because of the plot revelations (which, like Jammer mentioned, seem far too easy). Odo's scenes are nearly all moving. I enjoy episodes like these, in general, more than the science-procedural episodes. There's a lot more warmth, which stands up to re-watches where the plot motions of solving a subspace anomaly do not.

Anyway, I love this episode more than an objective analysis can explain. 3 stars as a 40-minute episode of TV, but a very warm chapter of the series as a whole whose value can't really be quantified.
Spindles - Thu, Oct 16, 2014 - 3:13am (USA Central)
It does seem like the writers sort of chickened out at the prospect of keeping Odo a solid for the duration of the show. But seriously, who wants to see Odo live out the rest of series as a solid? It seems to me that the more interesting possibilities exist in Odo remaining a shape-shifter in light of what's coming down the road.

As much as the twist end was a little suspect, I found the fact that the changelings turned Odo into a being with working organs, bones, nerves and skin the ridiculous plot point. What are the changelings, magic? Sentient shape-shifting beings are already stretching credulity for a science fiction show. Lovely episode though.
$G - Thu, Oct 16, 2014 - 8:09am (USA Central)
@Spindles

I'd say the writers chickened out too. But the options aren't between changing Odo back here or never changing him back at all. It's all straight up magic anyway (which I'm fine with), so why not just have him change back later in the series and do more episodes featuring Odo's fragility? "A Simple Investigation" would have been perfect for a solid Odo. The most they really did with fragile Odo was his initial angst in "Apocalypse Rising" and him being injured in "The Ascent".

It just makes one wonder about the writers room. At times they seem to just switch gears on stories without mining their scenarios for all they're worth. I'm not sure if it's because there was studio meddling, or they didn't know how else to treat the story, or they just got interested in following another character thread, or something else entirely. Plot twists need to be earned. Odo is still a great character, but him getting his abilities back so unexpectedly like this is the first of two huge missed opportunities with his character on the series.
seagum - Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - 4:47pm (USA Central)
My brain just can't put together "I like seeing new people watching the show" and "it's normal to spoiler anything and everything in the comment section of a non-spoilerous review", and especially comparing it to clicking ads on the internet. It's just a contraddiction, is all.

It's basically banning people from having a spoiler-free experience from this site because the guys who got there first felt like writing some off-topic comment. Of course I learned long ago how things are in this section (or on the internet for that matter), and deciding to read anyway is on me, but keeping the spoilers out would have been so simple. Actually it would have been less effort than putting them in.

As for "the begotten", I was so touched by the story that I didn't even consider that it was "the episode where Odo got his shapeshifting back". But I did wonder why Odo was turned solid in the first place, since nothing particularly relevant had happened to him before he went back to being a changeling.

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