Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Forsaken   Rewatch 
June 17, 2015 12:32 PM - Season 1, Episode 17 - Subscribe

Dr. Bashir is assigned "babysitting" duty for four visiting ambassadors. O'Brien deals with an alien computer program downloaded from a probe. Odo copes with a deeply infatuated Lwaxana "Daughter of the Fifth House, holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed" Troi.
posted by zarq (22 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Odo: " I don't eat! This is not a real mouth. It is an approximation of one. I do not have an esophagus or a stomach or a digestive system. I am not like you. Every sixteen hours I turn into a liquid."
Lwaxana: "I can swim."
[Lwaxana has taken off her wig]
Lwaxana: "No one's ever seen me like this."
Odo: "Why? It looks fine."
Lwaxana: "It looks ordinary. I've never cared to be ordinary. So you see, Odo, even we non-shapeshifters have to change who we are once in a while."
Odo: "You are not at all what I expected."
Lwaxana: "No one's ever paid me a greater compliment."
posted by zarq at 12:35 PM on June 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

To me, the DS9 writers made the best use of Lwaxana.
posted by drezdn at 1:34 PM on June 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

I sort of like Lwaxana, but also sort of don't. I love the fact that she's completely OK with making a scene regarding her brooch being stolen. I love the way she helps Odo when he's about to revert to his liquid state. I adore the comment she makes about throwing Odo a party where all the guests will be there to entertain him, because that seems like such a rare and precious thing for Odo to be given.

I dislike the way she really threw herself at Odo when he clearly wasn't up for it. She backed him into a bulkhead, got right into his personal space and then started touching him. Perhaps Betazoids can't read the emotions of Changelings, but even just looking at his body language should have given her a clue. I can't believe that Lwaxana was unaware of Odo's discomfort, which means that she just chose to ignore it. That's not cool.

The comment "good lord" seems a little out of place. Even Kira says "my god", but perhaps that should be "my gods", as there's more than one Prophet. Also, the turbolifts seem pretty dangerous, with bulkheads going whizzing past.

It jumped out at me that it's a bit daft to download the contents of the memory banks from a completely new device into the main computer. In this instance, it's just a lonely programme, but it could have completely incapacitated the entire station. Which would have been a special disaster with 4 visiting dignitaries on board. Apparently they don't have sandboxes in the future.
posted by Solomon at 2:59 PM on June 17, 2015

Memory Alpha link.

I was sounding off in another recent DS9 thread about how the creators of DS9 seemed to take a weird relish in taking stuff that hadn't worked on TNG, and making it work. The Ferengi are one famous example, but Lwaxana is another one.

Lwaxana was always problematic at best on TNG. She started as a real caricature, a kind of drag queen-y, older broad chasing guys around in this really pushy, creepy way. She was so confident and aggressive that we didn't feel pity for her really, but those scenes were supposed to be funny and they were just squirmy and weird and annoying. It wasn't misogynistic exactly, but it was misogynistic-y (and also ageist-y). As time went on they tried to make something more of her on TNG, but it never quite worked.

I think this episode makes the character work and gives her a soul, she finds a new life in that elevator. But there are some unfortunate aspects of the character that are just hardwired in there. She is always going to throw herself at men and get in their faces, even if they are obviously and absolutely not into it. In this episode one of those men can't run away, and when shit gets real we see that she has a compassion and wisdom that we never imagined were there. It doesn't make her TNG appearances easier to watch, but her subsequent visits to DS9 were a lot more welcome.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:36 PM on June 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Lwaxana is one of those characters that the TNG writers clearly didn't think through. I mean, she can read people's goddamn minds. So when she's pursuing guys who aren't into her, she can read all of their negative thoughts and discomfort with her pursuit, and goes ahead with it anyway. That's verging into sociopathic behavior, which I am sure was not what they were going for.

The writers at DS9 might have figured that out, because Lwaxana says in her next DS9 episode (Fascination), that she can't read Odo's mind. Which is fine, because he's substantially different from humanoids, so that seems like a plausible limit to Lwaxana's abilities . But in that episode, she is also adept at reading his body language and is the first to figure out that Odo's in love with Kira. So like Solomon said, she should have been able to read that Odo wasn't up for her flirtation right from the start.

I do love the bit zarq quoted, and that scene on its own kind of justifies Lwaxana's existence for me. So much awful stuff happens to Odo (or is caused by Odo) in the course of the series; it's nice to see someone outside of the DS9 crew treat him with kindness.

I wasn't a fan of Sisko's reaction when Odo came to him to complain about Lwaxana. Odo said he was worried about causing a diplomatic incident if he upset Lwaxana, and that kind of takes this situation out of the realm of Odo's personal life and more into a workplace sexual harassment realm. It definitely wasn't something for Sisko to joke around with Odo about, even if he had confidence that Odo could handle the situation.
posted by creepygirl at 8:14 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Sisko saying "have you considered having sex with this person who has authority over you, even though you don't want to have sex with them?" was really off.

Just so I'm clear, I think it's great that someone who is older and also who is a woman gets to have a libido and enjoy sex. It's the forcing of it onto other people that's the problem.Even Bashir doesn't get to that point.
posted by Solomon at 12:18 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Some fair points, creepygirl. Apparently Lwaxana likes the "challenge" of guys who aren't into her... or maybe she detects some attraction they're concealing? I suspect it's the first, because the second option sure doesn't sound like it fits Picard. He always seemed genuinely weary in her presence, like he did not find her pursuit of him charming in the slightest. That was part of what made her so wearisome on TNG. She seemed to genuinely bum everybody out.

Sisko's reaction may be a product of the time when the episode was made. I don't know how seriously people took sexual harassment against men in the early 1990s. But it also seems in character for Sisko. It's not the last time that we'll see him take a certain weird delight in his employees being kind of miserable on the job. I love me some Sisko, but sometimes he seems like a hard man to work for!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:22 AM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Meh. Lwaxana is uncomfortably aggressive, but I mostly chalk it up to the culture at the time the show was written. She was written to be a strong, independent, sexually assertive woman, but what she became was more of a caricature of that figure, that a man (or a Ferengi?) might point at and say "this is what will happen if we let women run free." Kudos to the writers for trying, but terrible execution.

And always annoying. Even here she is only barely tolerable.

Everyone knows you shouldn't download random files from the internet and just run them, right? I wonder if the ubiquitous spread of computers has impacted the decline in popularity of Star Trek. It's a lot harder to write a good episode when everyone can look and say "there's no way that would happen."
posted by 2ht at 4:25 AM on June 18, 2015

Even here she is only barely tolerable.

I disagree. I think, like others have said above, the DS9 writers figured out how to unlock Lwaxana. Majel Barrett, in her work alongside Rene Auberjonois, develops crazy pathos in this episode.

Clearly something wasn't working in the TNG writing of the character, because I suspect she'd have found it had it been there. Maybe it just took her playing off a vulnerable changeling, but whatever it is, it really works.
posted by rocketman at 11:45 AM on June 18, 2015

TNG tried something similar with the episode "Cost of Living" but it didn't work.
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on June 18, 2015

That's because Alexander episodes are the worst.
posted by rocketman at 12:14 PM on June 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Gah, I almost forgot about the "puppy" subplot.

It reminded of Futurama. Back in 2002, when Futurama aired its Trek episode, "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", I had a good laugh at this bit:

Leela: I didn't wanna leave them either, Fry, but what are we supposed to do?

Fry: Well, usually on the show someone would come up with a complicated plan then explain it with a simple analogy.

Leela: Hmm. If we can re-route engine power through the primary weapons and reconfigure them to Melllvar's frequency, that should overload his electro-quantum structure.

Bender: Like putting too much air in a balloon!

Fry: Of course! It's so simple!

Then later when the plan backfires:

Leela: It's not working! He's drawing straight from our weapons.

Fry: Like a balloon and ... something bad happens.

I knew that kind of analogizing was something the Trek shows had done more than once, but until I started rewatching DS9 this year, I hadn't realized how often they went to that particular well. So Mr. Creepygirl and I get great amusement from saying, "Like a balloon . . . and something bad happens" whenever we spot that particular trope.

To be clear, this is "we kid because we love" kind of stuff. I think it's a perfectly legitimate way to try to create some human interest in a story about make-believe technology, and I would much rather see it than just straight-up technobabble.
posted by creepygirl at 7:51 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Luckily this pretty much marked the end of the show trying to port TNG gimmicks into the DS9 world to lure viewers over. After this the show engages much more with the broader Trek canon through episodes like "Crossover".

I get why they felt like they had to do it in the first season, but the show didn't need it in the end.
posted by dry white toast at 11:50 AM on June 19, 2015

How many cultures have puppies? Clearly hu-mons, but also Trill and Bajoran too?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:35 PM on June 19, 2015

Well, the Bajoran moons are inhabited by Palukoos. They're not generally kept as pets, though.
posted by Solomon at 12:33 AM on June 20, 2015

Another thought about the "puppy": Did Sisko kill it when he fried the station's systems before the Cardassians/Dominion took over at the end of Season 5?
posted by creepygirl at 11:13 AM on June 20, 2015

Did anyone else wince at the expression of the idea –by O'Brien! – that if you've downloaded a troublesome program into your computer, the way to get rid of it is to upload it again?
posted by zadcat at 7:24 PM on August 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Did anyone else wince at the expression of the idea –by O'Brien! – that if you've downloaded a troublesome program into your computer, the way to get rid of it is to upload it again?

Whatever do you mean (he said, almost 13 months later)? That's exactly how I get rid of ransomware on small corporate networks. It's like catch-and-release.

I'm a bit disturbed by the Federation sense of sexual ethics on display in this episode. It's like Kirk wasn't an outlier in TOS.
posted by figurant at 9:41 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

You guys…

This wasn't a very good episode of this show, you guys
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:48 AM on February 8, 2017

Context: watching season one for the first time, by skipping most of the obvious clunker episodes (thanks, episode-watching guides!), had previously watched lots and lots of TNG.

This is the first episode that seems to set up its character arc and deliver on it.

PAST PROLOGUE: Person who fights for the good of Bajor continues to do so. Not a tonne of meat here as how Kira acts seems like a foregone conclusion.

A MAN ALONE: Nothing really changes or is plausibly at risk, all it sets up is distrust for 'shifters'.

DAX: What are symbionts? What is it like being and not-being a murderer? Oh except we'll sidestep all of that discussion and all Measure of a Man-parallels by making someone else ultimately responsible.

THE NEGUS: What if Quark learned something? But not really. (Really, only character development for his brother, and only when led by the 'lobe.)

VORTEX: Odo's change of heart seems a little pat for someone as staunchly law-and-order-no-matter-who-holds-the-gavel.

BATTLE LINES: I can buy Kai Opaka deciding it's her duty. Sets up possibility for change for Kira, but doesn't deliver.

This story? Sets up Odo's backstory (the 'researcher', how he got his hair). Explains his distance. Sets up a moment where both he and Lwaxana need to stop pretending.

I dunno, I liked it a bunch (but I'm watching the first seasons of DS1 and Babylon 5 right now, and both for the first time, so maybe my standards have been lowered). I was hoping I'd like Lwaxana more as an adult--and I do--but she's another example of the dated sexual politics of the show (everyone is entirely too aggressive with entirely no consequences).
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:14 PM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really, really disliked Lwaxana on TNG, but think she basically works here. And I think part of that is that they needed to introduce her "big," as the Lwaxana we know, and then humanize her. But yeah, the Lwaxana that we know from TNG is super not into caring about how uncomfortable her sexually aggressive behavior makes other people, and Sisko's response to Odo regarding that is horrible (and as we saw in the cold open of "Captive Pursuit," this isn't a one-time thing. The dabo girl complaining about Quark's sexual harassment of her also gets no help from Sisko there.)
posted by Navelgazer at 4:43 PM on May 11, 2020

So, what happens to the probe at the end?
posted by schmod at 12:00 PM on June 11, 2020

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