There’s something of a theme running through this episode of sons not really turning out the way their fathers thought they were. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and in one case, it really stretches the definition of “son”.
It’s also odd that I saw this episode about the same time I watched the TNG episode “Suddenly Human,” which went somewhat the opposite direction on the whole nature/nurture debate.
Now, I did say there were two father-son pairs, so let’s get the easier one out of the way first, and also the more obvious one: Ben and Jake Sisko. Jake is, somehow, dating a “Dabo girl,” one of the adult women who dress sexily and distract Dabo players in Quark’s. Jake would seem to be too young for such a thing, and Ben more or less agrees, but Ben has a different plan than might be expected in simply inviting the woman to dinner, finding out a bit about her, and then if he doesn’t like what he sees to gently ask her to stop seeing his son.
That’s probably a lot better than simply telling Jake not to date an adult woman when he’s still a teenager. The more direct approach would probably be ignored by Jake out of teenage stubbornness.
Instead, Ben learns there’s a lot more to his son than he thought as the woman, Mardah, tells Ben that Jake is actually a talented writer with some romantic touches. Ben didn’t know that, and the dinner ends with the suggestion he’s not going to get in Jake’s way over this issue again. Jake, it seems, is a lot deeper than he seems to be.
On the other side is Odo. Odo doesn’t really have a kid, but he sort of adopts one in this episode. Quark made a deal for some salvage from one of his usual connections, but then he finds a baby in the wreckage. There’s a strong hint Quark’s seller knew the baby was there, but the ship came from Gamma Quadrant, and whatever race this baby is, well, Bashir can’t identify it right away.
Now, for what it is worth, Odo isn’t much involved in these scenes. We see Sisko and Bashir try to figure out this baby, seeing it’s missing a key amino acid, and later finding a store of it in the wreckage. How much do they give this person? And…why is it growing so fast? They still can’t figure out this being’s race right away, but he’s not a happy fellow, that’s for sure.
Then he gets to young adulthood and starts fighting everybody in sight because he’s a Jem’Hadar. By then, the nameless fellow has been found by Odo. Odo seems to be the one being on the station this guy will listen to, so he takes the former child in. There’s a bit of debate over what to do next. Starfleet wants to take the kid in for tests. Odo and Bashir both disagree there, stating that no matter what kind of treatment the kid gets, he’ll still be a lab rat. Sisko, for his part, agrees to hold off Starfleet as long as he can while Odo takes the boy in and tries to prove the kid doesn’t have to be dangerous.
That proves a bit difficult. The kid wants to fight. Odo tells him he doesn’t have to be just a mindless soldier of the Dominion.
Now, in most forms of Star Trek, Odo would probably be eventually proven right. Even in the aforementioned TNG episode, despite the fact the boy decided to go back with his adopted people, he did seem to grow more appreciation for Picard and for humans in general. There were still human qualities in him, but he mostly wanted to go back to the only home he’d ever known. Here we have someone who may have been a baby the day before, but life on the station under Odo’s tutelage is likewise all this kid (no matter how big he is, I still see him as a kid) has ever known. This is all really getting into what the Jem’Hadar are in the end. Odo felt he can choose his own path. Others, most notably Kira, figured a kid that genetically engineered might not be able to make any choices at all.
Ultimately, the episode, and Odo himself, state that Kira was right. Starfleet decides to take the boy, and he escapes. Odo agrees to take him to a Jem’Hadar planet to see if he can resist his genetic programming…and he can’t. Odo’s “son” of sorts will not be coming back any time soon, little better than a footsoldier for the Dominion who, next time we see him if we see him at all, he’ll be looking to try to murder members of the main cast. It’s the sort of downer ending I haven’t seen a whole lot of from most Star Trek.
Of course, it fits right in with Deep Space Nine.