Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Abandoned"

3 stars

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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41 comments on this review

Jeff O'Connor
Wed, Oct 20, 2010, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
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
Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Jul 16, 2013, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 6:38pm (UTC -5)

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

Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 10:33pm (UTC -5)
Am I the only one who thought this episode was boring as all get out?
Andrew Taylor
Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 7:11am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 11:24pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 6:31am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 8:28am (UTC -5)
"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.
Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 9:10am (UTC -5)
@ 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.
Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 9:31am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 9:40am (UTC -5)
"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.
Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 11:18am (UTC -5)
@ Robert.


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.
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.
Wed, Sep 17, 2014, 7:13pm (UTC -5)
"I, Borg", as noted before, posed a real ethical dilemma as Hugh was altered by his experience on the Enterprise. The Abandoned shows none of those signs. It wasn't a bad episode but I found the words Odo used to convey "humanity" to the boy to be what I call "Star Trek stock spiel". I understand the show has an ethos to protect, but I found it all too heavy-handed in this instance.

New here. I've watched all other Star Trek series (TOS and TNG in reruns as a kid, Voyager as it aired, Enterprise a few months ago) except this one. Working my way through DS9 for the first time.
Wed, Sep 17, 2014, 7:55pm (UTC -5)
(Spoiler for later DS9...)

Jem'hadar do have other motives than bloodlust, obedience to the Founders, and need for white. They value the *ideals* of their loyalty and devotion to victory, and respect for a warrior ethic of strength and camaraderie. Thus Omet'iklan is willing to kill Weyoun (presumably against standing Founder orders), for doubting the first, and not to kill Sisko, for upholding the last.
Brian S
Mon, Jan 12, 2015, 8:14pm (UTC -5)
Data was (or at least was argued to be) a sentient being, even though he is little more than a byproduct of his own programming.

In TNG's "Measure of a Man," Picard argues that sentience requires merely intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness. It's unassailably clear that the Jem Hadar boy possesses all these things. That he chooses to to become a warrior and rejoin his people is no different from a Klingon orphan who grows up and chooses to embrace his Klingon heritage. There may be some troubling moral feelings about letting the child returning to the people who genetically manipulated him and forced him to be addicted to drugs as a way of controlling him, but in this episode, he did little but attempt to defend himself when faced with the prospect of spending the rest of his life being a lab experiment.

This also differs from the situation with the Borg Hugh who, although maybe not directly personally responsible for the attacks on the Federation, was to an extent a soldier in an army that the Federation was in an open war against.

To this point in DS9, the Federation was not yet at war with the Dominion or Jem Hadar. There were some battles and skirmishes, but no war. To take a clearly sentient orphan boy who had yet committed no crime and sentence him to a lifetime as a prisoner to be scientifically experimented on simply because he belonged to a race of people that the Federation feared additional conflicts with would have been.....well, inhuman.

By that logic, when Worf was a small boy, the Federation should have imprisoned him in a laboratory and performed all kind of genetic experiments on him, simply because he was a member of a race of warriors whom the Federation had previously fought with. Turning the Jem Hadar boy into a lab rat would have been no different than turning baby Worf into a lab rat. The JH's genetic engineering and drug addiction are irrelevant.
Sat, Apr 11, 2015, 4:29am (UTC -5)
I don't see any resemblances to I Borg. StarFleet just wanted to find out more about the Jim Hadar. In I Borg, they wanted to use him as a weapon for Genocide, until Hugh started catching on to the things Geordi said to him.

Thu, Apr 30, 2015, 6:54pm (UTC -5)
I actually watched it this time and I will comment on the boy. All he wanted to to do was fight and kill, he needed the white to sustain him and he was genetically brainwashed to think everyone was afraid of him because he could kill them. Those points are what stuck out this time. All of the Jem Hadar believed they were more powerful and could beat anyone, which is a big mistake in their programming. The founders had never met Worf and Ben Sisko.

I was glad that Odo decided to take him back to his people, because he would have been killed in self-defense before he got to the starbase.
Mon, Jun 15, 2015, 7:25am (UTC -5)
Couldn't suspend my disbelief at all, so that ruined the episode for me. The kid has accelerated aging well past preposterous and somehow acquires good language skills in the process - "You may run your tests". It isn't at all believable, but I think the worst part of all this is the "let's get to know them" nonsense that was also prevalent with the Borg. It completely shatters the fear factor and downgrades a mortal enemy, especially when you see the kid behaving like some ordinary punk human teen. It's all just misguided crap.
William B
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 7:57am (UTC -5)
The A-plot here has two main functions: provide exposition on the Jem'Hadar and to further Odo's character. On that level, the episode is pretty much successful. What this episode does not do with The Nameless Jem'Hadar -- give him some individuality apart from his species, show ways in which he might be partially reachable (and enhance the tragedy when he cannot be reached) -- is later done in "Hippocratic Oath," "To the Death," "Rocks and Shoals" and "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" (admittedly with a Vorta instead of Jem'Hadar), and so I cannot really complain that this episode does not do it. This is the baseline for who Jem'Hadar are, which is: programmed killing machines loyal to and dependent on the Founders. That's it. That the crew immediately jumps on this improbably accelerated aging process and genetic engineering as probable proof that the Nameless Jem'Hadar is definitely unreachable is a bit unreasonable given that they have no real information about how deep this programming goes. But I don't mind, exactly, that it turns out that the Jem'Hadar really has no interest in becoming an independent person who is something other than a killing machine for the Founders' will. He is programmed with that, after all, and he is also isolated on a station with a bunch of people scared of him, knowing that his own people are out there to provide him with a life exactly along the lines of the one he wants.

The problem I do have is that the episode is kind of falt dramatically -- it's an exercise in futility. More to the point, Odo's attempts to get through to the Jem'Hadar are hobbled by Odo's limitations, and the episode would probably have been stronger if there were someone to point out those limitations beyond Kira tongue-wagging that he's wrong to try at all. It's worth remembering that this punk kid is also three weeks old. That he was programmed with rudimentary quick-forming language and whatever is one thing, but Odo keeps seeming to expect the Jem'Hadar to have spontaneously formed his own hobbies. I'm not sure I want a repeat of that banana cream split scene in "Suddenly Human," but without *some* scene of Odo at least attempting to get the Jem'Hadar to bond with others the episode's defeatism about the Jem'Hadar is a little hollow.

What works is that Odo's desire to help the Jem'Hadar hits several points of comparison with Odo himself and is clearly both a matter of Odo having guilt for what His People have done, and Odo projecting his own story onto the boy. Odo's moving out of his bucket and into a set of quarters, which he describes with Kira with an almost unsettling enthusiasm, is the backdrop against which this is presented, and his attempts to convince the boy that he *can* "fight his nature" and find satisfying alternatives to his fundamental urges is Odo's way of trying to tell himself that he is satisfied with the play structure he's made for himself as an alternative to his people and the Link. His insistence that the boy no doubt has his own desire to be a moral being, coexisting peacefully in spite of his violent instincts, probably also comes from Odo's attempt to affirm that his loyalty to "solids" comes from his sense of justice which is real and fundamental, and not at all just his self-deception about his desire for order, as the Female Changeling insisted. This all plays out while Odo is also telling everyone he is not trying to *control* the boy, and insisting that he is only giving him options, when, in the end, *of course* he is trying to control him. Odo's belief system requires that justice and goodness are external values that only need to be "discovered," that once he imparts the value of nonviolence the boy will immediately see things Odo's way, but it is more complicated than that, especially when someone's programmed nature runs counter to it. Odo's attempt to step in and prevent the boy from either being the Founder's slave or an experiment leads to him somewhat becoming both Founder and Dr. Mora in his effort to use whatever resources he has to force free will on a boy who does not want it. But ultimately, for Odo's flaws he did want to try to help the boy escape from the Founders' clutches, and it does hurt him that he fails. That he lets the boy go makes sense to me -- the Jem'Hadar has not hurt anyone, and he can hardly be locked up, and Odo's identification is such that on some level he would rather this analogue be with his people, whatever that means, rather than be a test subject (and one who genuinely may have to be killed in order for that to last).

The B-plot with Sisko, Jake and Marta bugs me a little in that there is some weird classism around Sisko's bringing up that she's a DABO GIRL every few minutes; he is called on this, indirectly, by Marta, who points out that her Dabo Girl job is a way to survive as an orphan Occupation survivor, so that helps, but I sort of wish he were less explicit about it, especially since Sisko has the advantage of coming from a post-money society where people don't have to take whatever jobs they need to in order to survive. I do agree with Ben that the age difference seems to be a problem, and I get why it bothers him on a visceral level that her job involves flirting with people. I have got to say, my reaction is pretty similar to O'Brien's mixture of confusion and suppressed disgust when Sisko reveals that he's mainly inviting Jake's girlfriend over for retcon so that he'll be better able to break them up. I'm not a father though, so who knows? Maybe this is one of those things people like me can't get. The turnaround that he realizes that the situation is not so much innocent-Jake and vamp-Marta but that both of them are a mixture of idealistic and worldly does work for me, for one thing because it ties in with the A-plot, where Sisko seems to recognize that the limits to his understanding of Jake mean that his attempts to control his son's life are bound to fail, or at least are bound to be a little on the misguided side. It's smaller-scale than the Odo/Jem'Hadar plot, of course, but Sisko reluctantly lets Jake go just a little bit.

The foregone conclusion feeling to the A-plot makes it drag in spots but it's a pretty decent Odo story. 2.5 stars for me, I think.
S. Kennedy
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Good episode. There is an episode in TNG which this is a virtual remake of, 'Suddenly Human' (S4) with the exception that here the Jem Hader is a Jem Hader whereas in Suddenly Human it is a human boy who has been brought up as a member of an obscure hostile alien race. It is the same premise, an (ultimately doomed) attempt to teach someone inherently hostile (because of their upbringing) the merits of peace, civility, humour, etc, - there is even a scene in which they try to make him laugh in both episodes. The ending is a bit different though.

There is more than a bit of I, Borg also thrown into The Abandoned.
Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 10:59am (UTC -5)
I'm watching DS9 for the first time. Some of what I may say may be wrong in the long term, but these are my impressions of the show as I watch it.

The Jem'Hadar simply don't bring the same level of tone and terror that the Borg do. The Borg are a nightmare born from something which we cannot comprehend; their concept of life and civilization have absolutely no bearing on our own but we do understand it is fundamentally incompatible with the existence of life as we know it (humans and comparable aliens such as Klingons, Romulansm Cardassians, Jem'Hadar etc.) The comparisons between "I, Borg" and this episode fall flat to me because the stakes appear to be so much lower and the dilemma presented so much more basic.

This episode does illustrate something to me about the themes of TNG vs. DS9. TNG is about how humanity may grow to become something beyond which it is, and often deals with life that defies human understanding (2D aliens, The Q, Crystalline Entity etc). DS9 is about humanity as it is, and every race (except maybe the prophets?) is for all intents and purposes human.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Nov 22, 2015, 1:56pm (UTC -5)
Another strong episode. I don't see how you can deny the "I, Borg" comparisons here. The whole point of that episode was to show that there was hope, that the Borg were not incapable of change, and that one step could make a difference. Here, the point of showing the Jem'Hadar is that there is no hope. That even with their genetic deference to the Founders (Odo), they will still turn out to be killing machines whatever it is you try to reason with them. That's why he doesn't get a nickname, you can't domesticate a Jem'Hadar...

It also ends up giving Odo a big slap in the face for taking on a job he can't complete. That he feels a duty to try after encountering his people is another strong theme, especially given the joy he finds in his new quarters.

The B-story is nicely done but fairly lightweight. 3 stars.

Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
We begin"The Abandoned" with Quark buying some junk scrap and inadvertently discovering a baby in the wreckage. Upon learning this Quark immediately does the honorable and noble thing - he takes the baby to the Infirmary for Bashir to treat and informs everyone about what happened. How is he rewarded for this? Sisko acts likes an complete asshole to him because.... fuck Quark, am I right?! They then confiscate Quark's legally owned property because why the hell not and when Quark begins to protest he's basically told - "Go to hell! We're taking it without compensating you and you better damn-well be happy about it!" But all of this is acceptable because Sisko really likes kids and fondly remembers playing with baby Jake. Ah, we're off to a wonderful start!

Well, actually, after that rather disappointing opening, the episode really does enter much better territory. It turns out the baby is actually a Jem'Hadar and Odo decides to take him under his wing in order to atone for some of his race's sins. What I really like about this story is that Odo straight-up fails. He goes through the standard Trek line about tolerance and everyone living in harmony and yet the Jem'Hadar remains completely unconvinced - he just wants to fight, nothing more. Sadly, there are a lot of people in life that are like that - they aren't interested in adapting themselves to our liberalized way of life. That's something we have to face in the real world and yet Trek almost never showcases it. Usually all that really happens is a regurgitation of liberal talking points and everyone sees the error of their ways and embraces the new Federation lifestyle. If this were TNG, I have no doubt the Jem'Hadar would have either renounced violence or returned to the Dominion with a new perspective. Maybe that makes this story somewhat "anti-Trek" since it's Kira's skepticism which wins out over Odo's idealism, but I do not have a problem with that. It's much more in keeping with the actual human condition.

There's also a B-story which somewhat ties in with the A-plot (both kind of focus on family matters) in which we finally get to meet Jake's Dabo Girl girlfriend. "Sixteen years old and dating a Dabo Girl. Godspeed, Jake." You said it, O'Brien! Some might say that Wesley Crusher was lucky for getting to fly the Federation's flagship while still a teenager. Well, after seeing Mardah damn near spill out of her top, I can safely say that Jake Sisko is officially the luckiest teenager in the history of forever! This plot was pleasant enough for what it was and offered a humorous dinner scene between Sisko, Jake and Mardah. Nothing particularly worthwhile, but pleasing.

William B
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
@Luke, I agree that this ep is atypical (and in particular stands in direct contast to I Borg), but I feel like the idea that TNG would absolutely do the opposite in this particular story slightly misrepresents TNG, which was somewhat varied. TNG did a "boy decides he belongs in violent culture" ep with Suddenly Human. And there are episodes like Half a Life, which I know you hate, but which depict aliens who ultimately fail to change to the enlightened philosophy offered them, and choose their own culture over the Federation one offered. In fact, TNG was generally skeptical about large scale change of "enemy cultures" - Spock's attempt to change the Romulans is immediately exploited by evil factions, the society in First Contact was left alone, we find that the Klingons in Heart of Glory ultimately cannot be integrated into a post warrior culture with insufficient killing and Worf kills one to prevent him from continuing his attempt to take over the Enterprise, etc. The show was ultimately mostly optimistic but repeatedly emphasized that there were no guarantees and showed frequent failures. Some of those eps weren't great (or were outright bad) but it is frequently true in the show that attempts to reach out and instruct in Federation values sometimes failed and sometimes were even shown to be wrong headed.

What is interesting and mostly unique in The Abandoned is the idea that it is a purely genetic problem for the Jem'Hadar, since there are no cultural factors influencing him.
William B
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
Also, wow, people sure do treat Quark badly, don't they?
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 10:50pm (UTC -5)
Maybe I was being too harsh on TNG. I'll admit I had forgotten about most of those episodes. Especially "Half a Life", which I'm trying to scrub from my memory. :-P

Speaking of the genetic angle - that brings up the question, which this episode directly asks, of whether or not the Jem'Hadar even have free-will or if they are nothing but programmed killing machines. If that's true it makes what Odo is attempting here all the more hopeless. We do see in later episodes Jem'Hadar characters questioning Dominion orthodoxy (and in at least one case openly rebelling against it), however. Maybe their sense of free-will wasn't completely erased but buried amazingly deep down in their psyches - so far that it takes a really extraordinary event to release it, something Odo just wasn't capable of conjuring up for this one Jem'Hadar.
William B
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
I figured that you might not have incorporated Half a Life into your overall view of TNG :P

I think it is an open question how much free will the Jem'Hadar have. This episode implies very little -- though even here, the boy seems to say he's willing to kill Odo if he has to, which goes well against his programming. The episode plays the extreme teen rebellion angle, to some degree, which makes me wonder also if the propensity toward violent behaviour is something which peaks early and then peters out. I guess eps like To the Death and One Little Ship establishes that most Jem'Hadar don't get to be very old; but it's possible that their lust for battle decreases a little, and if they did happen to live to be twenty or something they might be more able to question their impulses. Since they generally *don't*, it doesn't come up. It could also make sense that the Founders are somewhat shortsighted in their programming, and that their particular genetic cocktail that creates these perfect soldiers in a couple of weeks makes them somewhat harder to control as they get older...but then, constant expansion and battle tends to weed them out before that becomes a problem, and perhaps Vorta are encouraged to ensure that relatively few Jem'Hadar get too old.
Fri, Mar 11, 2016, 11:18am (UTC -5)
I wouldn't say Quark repeatedly being treated badly is some sort of socialist agenda by the writers. Rather, I think Quark is supposed to be an underdog. Any chance Quark has to be a success ("The Nagus" , "Rules of Acquisition", "Little Green Men", "Ferengi Love Songs", "What you Leave Behind") ending up piddling out miserably. One might, by extension, say that Quark's harsh treatment by his family and the DS9 cast is an extension of the underdog portrayal.

But making Quark an underdog simply makes him more likable. Would anyone really have preferred it if Quark was the Ferengi equivalent of Donald Trump? A decision like that might have done more to prove the Federation's point about capitalist greed than what the DS9 went for when making Quark greedy, but not overly powerful or successful.

Just my 2 strips of latinum.
Thu, May 12, 2016, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
@William, "the boy seems to say he's willing to kill Odo if he has to, which goes well against his programming" -- I noticed that too, and really liked that part. The Founders bred loyalty into their awesome killing machines, but their lust for death overpowers even that loyalty. Thus, they bred them to require Ketracel-white as an additional safeguard, which now is obviously necessary. It reminds me of the engineers of Jurassic Park giving their dinosaurs a lysine deficiency to make sure they could control them.

@Luke, "I can safely say that Jake Sisko is officially the luckiest teenager in the history of forever!" LOL I literally said nearly the same thing aloud when I saw Marta and Jake together on this rewatch. My reaction was, "Oh man! Every single woman in that bar wants to meet Jake now! I bet he could even get Jadzia."

Also, Sisko et al. are absolutely unfair to Quark -- but remember that Quark really did some pretty lousy things in the first two seasons. Although Quark usually saved the day semi-heroically those times and sort of undid the damage, he has forfeit a lot of good will, justifying, in part, Sisko's tyranny. I don't mind it. It shows that Sisko is like the sheriff of a town (with Odo as constable) out on the frontier, with minimal control from the state (a mere O-5 [commander] in charge of one of the most strategically important bases in the Quadrant?! Were all the hundreds of one-star admirals busy?) showing that Starfleet still doesn't care too much about DS9 yet (shocking though that is -- they must be occupied cataloguing gaseous anomalies with the Romulans), which connects into the "wagon train to the stars" idea and the "frontier medicine" idea from Bashir as well. Few Starfleet officers would have it in them to do this job effectively, but in two years Sisko has rapidly adapted to the role in this place, a distinctly Ronald D. Moore world of grey.
Paul Allen
Sat, Jul 30, 2016, 12:04pm (UTC -5)
Horrible snobby sexism from Sisko re: "the Dabo girl". Really disappointing.

Seriously, it's supposed to be stardate 48301.1 and misogyny like that exists, especially in such a normally positive main character?

I'm angry at this sort of attitude.

Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 11:56am (UTC -5)
@Paul Allen To be fair, I think it's less so he has problem with Dabo girls period, just that he just doesn't feel comfortable having his son be dating somebody so... Sensual. Her having sex with him, even if you don't believe in US's statutory rape standard would be pretty skeezy.
Tue, Mar 21, 2017, 1:41am (UTC -5)
I didn't like it as much a Mr. Jammer. This should have been a two part episode the abruptly resolves itself in the last minute of the fifth act. The Odo scenes where he's trying to connect with the teenage Jem'Hadar are good. I didn't believe for a second that Jake is able to get with a smoking hot Dabo girl in her twenties. I believe even less that Captain Sisko would in any way object. If I was Jake's single father i would be fist bumping him and handing him federation issue condoms. Almost as important I'm disappointed I didn't get to see Odo and the Jem'Hadar's road trip to the Dominion.
Tue, Mar 21, 2017, 11:13am (UTC -5)
@ Welchie!!!!!

Sure he could, he's the son of the station commander after all. And the Emissary's kid too. He could probably have half of Bajor if he wanted to :D
Peter Swinkels
Mon, May 1, 2017, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
Okay, in Star Trek ANYTHING is possible with genetics, even an invisibility cloak. Completely ridiculous. Also funny how the baby doesn't at all look like a reptiloid. Still a nice episode.
Thu, Jun 1, 2017, 6:41pm (UTC -5)
Good episode and a good way of learning more about a Federation threat. The one question is: How did a baby Jem'Hadar get lost in wreckage and no attempt made (at least in this episode) for Jem'Hadar adults to come looking for him? I'm surprised part of the episode didn't explore that or deal more with the creature who sold the wreckage to Quark.
In any case, what unfolds in the episode is pretty good - Good convo between Odo and Kira about trying to be something "better" than what you're programmed to be. Kira is no longer a terrorist so Odo is justified in at least trying to teach the Jem'Hadar kid.
I do think Sisko and DS9 security could have immobilized the Jem'Hadar kid and handed him over to Federation authorities. I have no "moral qualms" about this even if we're dealing with a sentient life - given that it is programmed to kill/be violent etc.
The B-plot is a totally different change of pace that provides a bit of levity - it's fine here.
I am a fan of Odo - I like his reasoning and ability to admit to Kira that she was right about not being able to "tame" the Jem'Hadar kid.
I'd give this 3 stars out of 4. Solid episode with a couple of questions left unanswered but nothing outstanding to warrant a higher rating.
Daniel B
Sat, Jul 8, 2017, 2:37am (UTC -5)
I liked how this episode DIDN'T take the typical way out of eventually turning your programmed enemy over to your side.

It was great in I, Borg, don't get me wrong, but I thought we'd see another repeat. It was nice that it didn't happen that way this time.
Fri, Jul 28, 2017, 2:57pm (UTC -5)
Yawn. I liked this better when it was called "I, Borg". 2 stars. Even if the parallels weren't obvious it still is a tedious hour with the useless subplot with Jake and dabo girl. the Odo plot didn't interest me at all. DS9 should wasted its ten episodes being only Star Trek on the air
Sat, Jun 9, 2018, 7:15pm (UTC -5)
I liked Odo's development here, especially his relationship with Kira, but what sunk this episode for me was two things. One part A is that the Jem'Hadar was so monotonously one-note that I felt Odo was being really really stupid. But that was reflective of his own character so it wasn't too bad. Part B of item one is that the actor playing the Jem'Hadar was not good. He looked like a little kid in makeup--and acted it.

And two, Sisko is just not getting better as an actor for me. His expressions are odd, his voice is bizarre, and despite what folks have told me about him getting better over time, I am just not seeing it. I can imagine Picard realistically accepting that his adolescent son was dating a grown woman--Sisko didn't convince me at all.

And seriously? That's a storyline? It seemed very forced and awkward and Jake had no chemistry with Marta. She did seem interesting though--I'd like to see her dating Bashir.

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