Sunday, August 17, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: The Begotten

Deep Space Nine, Season 5
"The Begotten"
Airdate: January 27, 1997
108 of 173 aired
108 of 173 produced


Odo is surprised by a new arrival, a substance from space that appears very much like a nascent changeling. Meanwhile, Kira finally gives birth to her surrogate child, hopefully ridding us of ever having to hear about it again.

All right, baby, you'd better stop now or James Cameron is totally going to sue.

Matthew: So this is a pretty good episode merged with an almost unbearably stupid and perfunctory one. On the plus side, despite the marked similarities to "The Alternate" in terms of the Odo-Mora antipathy, especially in the dialogue, the story of Odo trying to raise a fledgling changeling was pretty good. I enjoyed the contrast between their methods, and Odo's coming around to a few of them. Odo's relationship resolution with Mora was rewarding.

Kevin: I agree. I don't mind the repeat of the issues in "The Alternate." Even once you identify and ostensibly resolve an issue with a parent or relative, it's not like the dynamic changes completely at once. Watching them spar and then eventually work together was very nicely done.

Matthew: Unfortunately (for this episode, albeit fortunately for future ones), this episode is saddled with the resolution of the execrable Kira/O'Brien baby plot thread. If there is a plot I care less about in DS9, I can't put my finger on it. We are treated to some truly awful "comedy" in which a completely absentee boyfriend competes for a pregnant woman's attention with the utterly creepy dude whose kid is inside her, all while his oblivious wife stands idly by. Then, the birth scene itself completes the ridiculous "How Bajorans Make Babies" thread (sneezes and long gestation and all) and tells us that Bajoran women HAVE TO RELAX or else they won't give birth. I can't think of a more asinine story idea than to suggest that he gestation of a humanoid roughly comparable to a human (enough to carry their children) could be put on hold willy nilly FOR WEEKS because some asshole wasn't beating a drum in the proper rhythm.  How did Bajoran women give birth during the Occupation? Were several million of the Bajoran victims pregnant women whose babies got stuck permanently in the uterus because they had grown too large to leave? This story idea was ridiculous, insulting, AND boring, which actually is a pretty singular accomplishment.

Kevin: I remember thinking the idea that childbirth wasn't an apparently painful process for Bajoran women was novel when I first watched it, but yeah, the rest of the plot doesn't quite stand up. There are a few times where the lack of a woman in the upper ranks of the show really shows through, and here is one of those times. They're pulling their dynamics from 1950s sitcoms on the subject. Given the complications of modern human surrogacy, I can imagine any number of ways to more interestingly explore resolving this arc. The scene between Kira and Odo at the end was great, and I think her dealing with her unexpected desire to keep the baby could have made the basis for an episode, a really good one.

Matthew: So the Odo story has some of its own narrative housekeeping, with the changeling baby granting its powers back to Odo. I have mixed feelings. It was obvious that the writers just wanted to end a story thread they didn't really enjoy (Odo as Solid), and that this was the artificial way out that seemed easiest. I would have preferred to get to know the changeling baby more to give the sacrifice more impact. In "The Offspring," for instance, Data and Lal's real relationship is what gives the episode such weight. Here, only Odo's side is really represented. It was represented well, mind you, but I wanted more. Like, I wanted hem to just dispense with the stupid baby story and tell us the actual good tale.

Kevin: I also remember thinking that this episode came about two or three episodes in the season. Aside from some brooding in the season opener, we never really got a look at Odo's life as a solid, and before they go back, they should have done more work there. Still, overall, on the strength of Odo's acting if nothing else, I found the emotional core of the story to be pretty solid. Also, to the extent this was a retread of ground covered in The Alternate, I found this to be a more satisfying resolution of the Odo and Mora relationship by a mile.


Matthew: Rene Auberjonois has never been my favorite actor in the franchise (mainly due to the painful-to-watch character work he's been tasked with). But boy, do I respect him, for being able to animate and make me care about a person trying to convince a blob of jell-o to do stuff. His interactions with James Sloyan's Dr. Mora were right on point, too.

Kevin: Sloyan and Auberjonois really did a good job with the relationship. It helps that they both have similar gravely delivery styles. It really felt like a father-son relationship, both too similar to actually get along. The scene in the bar and then the final scene in the infirmary were touching.

Matthew: Duncan Regehr has had a real roller-coaster in this franchise. He started out awful as Ronin, actually got pretty good in a few spots as Shakaar, and is now full circle awful again. I have difficulty recalling an actor who looked more checked out and delivered his lines with less authority.

Production Values

Matthew: This was a bottle show, with one big prop - the blob. As blobs go, I was somewhat unimpressed. It just looked too much like Jell-O, right down to the little watery trail left in the container (that seems quite inconsistent with a changeling). I think they would have been better served with the sort of effects that were in TNG's "Aquiel." Bet you never thought anyone would positively reference that one, eh? On the plus side, I liked the "Abyss" effect near the end, and the scientific props were pretty good.

Kevin: I liked the camera work of Odo's transformation and flight through the promenade and I liked that they remembered that his uniform is real so it should fall away and not just melt into the effect. But yeah, beyond that, there's nothing much more to discuss.


Matthew: The Odo/Mora story is at least a 3 on its face. Given more time, it may have even gone higher. But the baby story was absolutely awful. And so with one redeeming plot and one stupid one given equal time, I have to give this episode a 2 overall.

Kevin: I was sufficiently entertained by everything enough to push this into a 3. I was not as overly annoyed by the baby story, I just wasn't impressed by the fact they went for antiquated dad comedy as opposed to the obvious drama the situation presents. Still, I reasonably enjoy watching it, and it remains average for me. That makes a total of 5.

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