Friday, February 04, 2022

3 in The Forsaken (Deep Space Nine S01-E17)

You see, Odo, even us non-shape-shifters need to change who we are once in a while.

Formerly titled as Only the Lonely, The Forsaken is a literal and figurative deconstruction of Odo.

On the surface, he is the powerful alien shapeshifter; Deep Space Nine’s security chief, incorruptible, just, and a talented investigator. He frowns at imagination and romance. His natural form is liquid and every 16 hours he rests, somewhat undignified, contained inside a bucket in his office. 

Buckets notwithstanding, he’s clearly a being you don’t want to mess with. There is another side to that: Odo really is pretending 16 hours a day at being a solid. 

His stoic response to Quark’s offer of a Holosuite, the virtues of keeping one’s mind on the present is self-preservation, does not make him a philosopher but makes him anybody who is just trying to keep himself together. 

Think about it, what is imagination to a being that only yearns to know another creature like himself, yet he doesn’t know where to look? It would be torture instead more than relaxation. 

Overall, The Forsaken exudes a certain poetry in the sense that the shapeshifter tires with pretending. Here are the 3 things that stood out in the episode.





Babysitting Ambassadors

A playful Benjamin Sisko made this part tasteful; otherwise, I would have only considered this as hazing. The new guy got the unenviable task of babysitting VIPs expecting all their entitlements like a spoiled child. It’s unnecessary stress at least for Doctor Bashir

As Chief Medical Officer he signed up to solve medical problems even knowing he can’t save them all, but if he starts an incident now with Ambassadors one would ask why it had to happen.


Commander Sisko masterfully slices his motivation between hazing and networking. He admits to Bashir that he takes “perverse pleasure” at the seeing the Doctor’s difficulty. After that he encourages, pointing out that a good job means a handful of ambassadors can be called for favors later on.

Sisko’s recommendation for the Doctor to build social capital humanizes Starfleet. It is not the abstract, galaxy spanning organization of a utopian future, but like all organizations it is filled with people whom you build relationships and trade favors. 

It is not always the science and facts of a Starfleet Officer’s performance but maybe a little bit of politics as well. The only question is could there have been a better way, at least one that could have given Doctor Bashir less aggravation? 

I don’t think there is. First the opportunity is now. And maybe second, how many parties and conferences – to which Bashir would only get the medical kind – can you have with a handful of Ambassadors getting your attention.


The doctor was remarkably calm and logical for a man of his years under    such severe conditions. - Amb. Lojal


Plus in this scenario, the conversation is organic and the Doctor wouldn’t come off as needy and ass kissing for the sake of it. And yes it is Commander’s privilege whom he would like to torture for this kind of work.


 Every 16 hours, I turn into Liquid



Commander Sisko couldn’t see, maybe not unlike the typical science fiction fan. He saw only the powers and the abilities, but not the person who is hiding. 

Constable, you can handle thieves and killers but not one Betazoid woman?

Odo’s powers are what made him special in our eyes. It is to a science fiction fan what makes it great about the genre, to see and live with non-human life in the future.

But does Odo see himself as special? Read how he describes his abilities and his limits to the Betazoid Ambassador Lwaxana Troi, which includes returning to liquid every 16 hours.

I don't eat... this is not a real mouth... it is an approximation of one... I don't have an esophagus or a stomach or a digestive system... I am not like you... every sixteen hours, I turn into a liquid.

What he said is not merely a statement of fact because his emotions do not match his words. All his directness to thieves and murderers are not present. Odo wants Lwaxana to choose which is why he gave her a biology lesson. 

There is no future for such a biological incompatibility. Odo may even be annoyed that Lwaxana has no grasp of what he knows is obvious. He does not want to chose because he may actually want the company.

Lwaxana Troi is technically a stranger so I understand Odo's self-consciousness of his liquid form. You can’t just hand a stranger something wet and gooey, especially if it’s your own body. That's gross. And then Odo says this:

My way of trying to fit in. I found I could be entertaining.  Odo, be a chair.  I'm a chair.  Odo, be a razorcat.  I'm a razorcat.  Life of  the party.  I hate parties.

That is a lonely statement, hints at the willingness to be toyed with just to fit in. You must relate what he says to how he is acting to read that Odo still has not escaped that negative cycle.  

He has exchanged being a party trick to the image of the powerful Security Chief. Instead of being a chair he uses his powers to catch criminals.

It is the reason why he is so conscious of his liquid form. Being caught liquid and incapacitated counters with his sense of self-image, the role that Deep Space Nine has known him for. He’s not just Odo, a person with needs and daily struggles.


Have you thought of letting her catch you?

Procreation...? In any event, it is all irrelevant to me.

That fixation between routine and image made the shot of Lwaxana catching Odo using her dress emotionally satisfying. He is seen for the very first time, he has trusted another being fully also for the very first time - or he lost control at first take your pick.

It is just obvious he is relieved to be seen, in his entirety, to at least to one person. And that person reciprocated.

Odo's story in The Forsaken, how we may all be surprised for that side of him has real life applications, maybe especially so this pandemic. Lwaxana's remark on non-shapeshifters also pretending, removes the rose colored glasses we have for alien characters and also to remind us anybody can be like Odo.

When writing this post and thinking of Odo’s story I can’t help but keep coming back to celebrity suicides, because I would never have picked him for having struggles. 

For celebrities: fame and fortune should enough for all one’s troubles right, or so we regular people like me thought.  And celebrities more than most have images to maintain; they pretend as much as a shapeshifter does.

I was able to note he was searching for his past but not how lonely he was. As a science fiction fan I was most likely thinking Odo could handle it. He was acting quite the stoic.

The truth is we don’t know who is struggling and who isn’t. Till then we should remember:

You never know what someone is going through. A few nice words can help a person a lot more than you think.



Hello Computer


Compared to Odo, that probe is forgettable, never mind that it was centerpiece for one trailer. 

The probe didn't spark any emotion from me when normally first contact is a big thing in a Star Trek story. I don’t know where it came from or its mission, only that Dax is reminded of a puppy.  It ended up as nothing but a plot device for Odo and Lwaxana to get trapped and thus do their thing.

For my 3rd notable in this episode I choose the audio design involving the probe and not its story. Try to remember those characters who were so good at what they do that they seemed psychic when put side by side with a novice character. 

If it was a story about cars, the character would know the damage by just the sound. If it were a wilderness movie, it would be the outdoors-man character who can track in the wild; knew how many or what kind of animal from the marks on the ground; knew rain was coming from just a whiff in the air.

In The Forsaken, Miles O’Brien said the computer was irritated at his orders because it strayed away from Cardassian guidelines. 

I didn’t notice it in my first watch thinking it was one of the psychic moments given to expert characters. On my second watch and subsequent rewinds of just that clip, what is usually a neutral computer voice contained a faint hint of irritation.

So kudos to the audio design team for getting me in the head of Chief O’Brien if only for 2 seconds.

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