One of the key episodes of the first season was also another one to revisit a familiar Next Generation face. Unlike what might have seemed somewhat gratuitous in other instances, however, "The Forsaken" marks another of Deep Space Nine's maturing points in its formative development.
Now, stop me if you've heard this one: Lwaxana Troi stops by and makes things uncomfortable. The thing is, it's almost as if she's a completely different character. The difference, as Q demonstrated previously, is that she really is in a different series. Where Picard (and others, including her own daughter) only ever got around to tolerating her, Lwaxana finds an unexpected match in Odo, the shapeshifter noted for keeping his own company, a self-imposed alienation. As it turns out, that's something Lwaxana knows a thing or two about, and their budding relationship in this episode alone is a revelation, and a delightful wonder.
The episode's ability to take a commodity as familiar as Lwaxana and fully envelope her in the show's emerging mentality is its most intriguing element, but the rest of it also allows everyone else to relax into what would become a more regular and steady interpretation of what life on a space station could be like. Sure, computer malfunctions caused by rogue sentience and unruly ambassadors had been in Star Trek before, but "The Forsaken" helps make them feel natural in a new and entirely befitting setting. In short, this is an early episode that finally helped things coalesce.
Of course, what truly makes it memorable is Lwaxana and Odo, and if you only watch it for these scenes, you're in for quite a treat. Mrs. Troi makes two additional appearances in the series, and as enjoyable as they are, they still have a hard time living up to "The Forsaken." For a season that struggled a great deal to find a steady tone, that's quite a mark of distinction.
franchise * series * essential * character
Memory Alpha summary