“The Begotten” is the story of two unconventional sets of parents. In the amazingly written and acted emotional roller coaster of an A-Plot, we have Odo reluctantly accepting the help of his estranged father figure, scientist Dr. Mora Pol, to raise a baby changeling.
In the B-Plot, Kira goes into labour with the O’Briens’ baby and they are joined in the delivery room by Shakaar.
Unfortunately, that storyline is so irritating that it kind of makes me want to jump out the nearest airlock. So I’m going to start with that and get it off my chest.
As I’ve said before, the O’Briens are a walking marital cliché factory.
He doesn’t like cleaning the house and resents not being able to spend enough time with his guy friends (well really just the one), she controls what he eats and lectures him about their kids. Neither of them is at all good at communicating openly and honestly with each other.
Throw Kira, Shakaar, and a soon-to-be new baby O’Brien, and there might have been a way to disrupt the O’Briens’ usual tired pattern. But instead, we only got more clichés.
It starts in their first scene, as Keiko and Miles are supposed to be joining the Bajoran midwife in playing instruments – a rattle and gong – in rhythm, to help Kira relax. Miles keeps messing up the gong and sneezing and Keiko seems embarrassed by him, passive-aggressively reminding him how important it is to keep the rhythm.
When Shakaar finally arrives, Miles shoots him a glare for being late. When labour stops because the process took too long, Miles mutters, “I wonder why.”
A bit later Shakaar comes in while O’Brien is massaging Kira’s feet. And this is where the plot firmly establishes itself as being more about Shakaar and Miles than about Kira. And neither of them is coming across very likeable. The two of them are possessive and competitive. They both feel entitled to try to control the situation and Kira – Miles because she’s carrying his baby, and Shakaar because she’s his girlfriend.
Shakaar tries to get O’Brien to stop rubbing Kira’s ankles. He tries to take over but O’Brien insists he’s not doing it right. They’re so busy arguing that Kira practically has to yell at them that she’s going into labour again. They each yank her in different directions in response.
Kira pulls her arms away and gets up herself. But by the next scene the guys still haven’t figured out how ridiculous and immature their “mine is bigger than yours” thing is.
The baby turns and the midwife declares it’s time for delivery. Miles moves down to the end of the bed to see his baby being born, but Shakaar can’t possibly have him see his girlfriend’s genitals! That’s his turf!
Shakaar: Why don’t you stay there?
Miles: I can’t see from here.
Miles: It’s my baby.
Shakaar: I think it would make Nerys uncomfortable.
You’re watching this and you can’t help but be super happy when Kira kicks them both out of the delivery because of their “ridiculous little competition”. Keiko backs her up and you’re just about to breathe a sigh of relief that the pain is over when you get this exchange in the hall:
Miles: Nice going
Shakaar: Do me a favour: next time you have a baby, leave my girlfriend out of it.
Seriously, Kira, how did you end up with this asshat?
Okay, so I’ve ranted a lot about the B-Plot but I do have to be fair and mention a couple things I appreciated about it.
For one, I really like the way the writers conceptualized the traditional Bajoran birth. I think it was creative to flip our usual scripts about birth being traumatic, painful and dangerous and instead have Bajoran birth be relaxing and euphoric.
I also really appreciated the role of the midwife. Showing Bashir just stop in quickly at the beginning and then leave the rest of the process to the midwife was, I think, a really positive thing. It shows that birth is a natural process, not something that always needs to be controlled by doctors.
And it was great to show that Kira had options and the midwife and the traditional birth were totally her choice. At the end of the day, everyone in the room was willing to go along with what her decision was.
Shakaar: When will she have the baby?
Y’Pora: It could be a few more days, or a few more weeks.
Kira: Weeks? If I don’t have this baby soon, I’m going to go out of my mind.
Y’Pora: If you want, you can go see Doctor Bashir and have him…
Kira: No, no, I want to have this baby the traditional Bajoran way.
But if that wasn’t enough to make you feel better, like I said, the acting and writing for the major part of the episode featuring Odo and James Sloyan as Dr. Mora are excellent, or at least better than the O’Brien/Shakaar train wreck.
Rene Auberjonois, in particular, carries us along with his every word and facial expression as he tries to coax the baby changeling to shapeshift, expresses his lingering anger toward Dr. Mora, is forced to empathize with him, experiences sheer joy after the changeling mimics his face for the first time, prepares for his child’s impending death, and finds his own shapeshifting powers unexpectedly restored.
Sloyan embodies all the contradictions of Dr. Mora. In his acting and through the script we see that, behind his relatively calm surface, he has complicated feelings about Odo’s rejection of him. Mora is an abuser who believes he cares, and I think the audience is supposed to forgive him, even though what he did to Odo and does to the baby changeling are a step beyond just “tough love.”
I don’t have a lot of feminist analysis about the A-Plot but do want to mention one significant point: at no point do Odo and Mora gender the baby changeling. They always refer to it as “it” or “the changeling,” which is awesome because we so rarely get to see even strange aliens without assigned genders on Star Trek. Odo and Mora have no clues as to the changeling’s gender, so they don’t assume it. Now how hard was that?
Even though we never get to see Odo exploring different gender identities for himself, it’s neat to imagine that this changeling might’ve had multiple options and room to exercise them – similar to how in “The Offspring” Data gives Lal more gender and race options than he was given.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Kira talks to Y’Pora, the midwife, about the delivery.
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It was also awesome to see Odo’s compassion and care while helping the baby changeling. The look of sheer joy on his and Dr. Mora’s faces when the changeling mimicked Odo’s face was priceless and palpable. Much like Sisko’s relationship with Jake, it’s great to see such positive and sensitive depictions of fatherhood.