WARNING: The below article contains spoilers for DS9's "Children
In brief: A reset-button episode in a few ways, but extremely
powerful. Well worth a look.
Written by: Rene Echevarria (teleplay);
Gary Holland and Ethan H. Calk (story)
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Brief summary: The Defiant finds a planet populated by the crew's
own descendants, and must choose whether to destroy the colony's
timeline or deliberately maroon themselves in the past.
I'm rather surprised at how much I liked "Children of Time". It's not
that it was a bad show; despite a few minor concerns here and there, it
set up and resolved its situations very nicely indeed. No, what
surprises me is that a large portion of the show was dealing with the
infamous Odo/Kira relationship, the one I've decried for so long --
and I really, *really* liked the way it went. I think this is a sign of
impending apocalypse, but I'm not sure. (Maybe ... gasp ... it's just
that it was written *well* for a change!)
More on that later, however -- for now, I'd rather deal with the
premise. "Children of Time"'s setup -- "the crew meets their own
descendants!" is a seriously double-edged sword: while it's got
potential for serious emotional weight, it can also seem intensely
stupid if not made plausible somehow. Rather than setting up the
situation in what I'd call the "conventional" way, however (namely
having the Defiant travel forward in time by a few centuries), the
writers decided to bring the descendants back. While an idea of
"we're the descendants of you after you get tossed into the past a few
days after this present" may sound a little confusing to some, it throws
enough quirks into the situation to sound intriguing, and remained
fairly plausible the whole time.
I rather liked the fact, come to think of it, that the story of the colony
was confirmed very quickly. No major soul-searching about "are they
telling the truth?" this time; rather, a quick location of the Dax
symbiont and of genetic links back to O'Brien coupled with a
confidential-to-Curzon story made the characters fairly convinced
fairly quickly, and all the other little touches scattered throughout
(such as the older Odo, the Bajoran architecture for Kira's grave, and
particularly Quark's image as a math teacher) lent it a familiar-yet-not-
entirely-familiar feel which was much appreciated.
After that came the inevitable complications -- in this case, the
dilemma of whether to go back or not to go back. I'll deal with the
outcome later; early on, it's more important that the issue be
introduced naturally, and it was. A lot of information had to get to us
in the first third of the show or so, and it's impressive that virtually
none of it *felt* like exposition. After all, you really wouldn't expect
Sisko et al. to know any of the colony's history, and you'd also
expect them to be interested -- as such, having Miranda, Yedrin, and
the children tell them about it felt right, particularly since they
interjected with questions of their own. The "at first everyone had to
sleep here, all forty-eight of them." / "Forty-*eight*?" exchange was
particularly solid, in that it set up a way to break the bad news without
making Yedrin and company have to bring it up out of the blue.
Yedrin's initial stated plan, to create a "quantum duplicate" of the
Defiant, was also an interesting idea. At first, I was concerned,
because it just seemed to be, as Kira put it, an attempt to use
technology to cheat fate: while I tend to agree with O'Brien that I
"wouldn't mind cheating fate all the way back to the station," I also
think that "well, we found a <tech> way to make both options work,
so everything's hunky-dory" is unlikely to make for good drama.
However, as a fraud perpetrated by Yedrin it's particularly good, for
several reasons. First, it seems plausible: we've seen people and
ships duplicated before, most particularly in TNG's "Second
Chances" and Voyager's "Deadlock", so the idea's already one that
should be considered within the Trek universe. Second, had Yedrin
actually managed to make the deception stick, the Defiant crew would
*never have known* about it; they'd probably have just assumed "oh,
well, I guess we're the ones who wound up in the past instead of
making it home," and reconciled themselves accordingly.
As long as I'm in the early part of the show, however, there are two
things that concerned me on a plot level. The first is the
aforementioned technobabble; while it was limited to dealing with a
plan that didn't work, I'm oversensitized to it enough that I was
already feeling it was too much. The second is a more basic question
that applies all too often to shows like this: why was everyone on
board the Defiant? Who was running the station? I can see a few
people coming along -- Sisko, Worf, Odo, and maybe one or two
others -- but not *everyone else*. (I suppose I should count my
blessings that they didn't bring Quark as well.) It's a basic
plausibility question, and one that should have been dealt with
On a character level, I've one quick objection; he's named Bashir.
Granted, Julian's usually been the most cheerful member of the
group, but he came off as shallow, self-centered and womanizing for
the vast majority of the episode -- and after shows like last season's
"The Quickening" and this season's "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", it
really feels like backsliding. Yuk.
Just about everything else on a character level, however, was golden.
Having O'Brien be the last holdout against accepting fate is extremely
in keeping with the down-to-earth family man O'Brien's been for
years; O'Brien seems so straitlaced that even the very *thought* of
having to one day give up on seeing Keiko and his children again
would make him very uncomfortable, as was the case here. Incidental
moments, like Dax's talk with Yedrin about her future with Worf, the
fact that a love of baseball seems to have survived through the colony
thanks to Sisko's initial teachings, Worf's encounter with "the sons of
Mogh" (not to mention the legend that Worf could kill people by
looking at them), and other such things did a lot to both establish the
validity of the colony and make the regulars' reactions realistic and
(Along the same lines, when Dax called Sisko away to tell him about
Yedrin's faking the data, I was yelling at him to at least throw the
baseball back to the kids before leaving. I was very glad to see that he
listened. :-) )
The character interaction that got the most time devoted to it, however,
was the one between Kira and Odo -- and given the story's usual track
record, I was not anticipating greatness there. I was wrong. Kira's
observation that Odo had changed a lot in two hundred years was an
understatement: this Odo felt far more human and far more passionate
than "our" Odo has ever felt to me. Now, granted, that was the point
-- but the fact that we've seen how Odo can turn out has suddenly
made me feel that the current Odo's interest in Kira is perhaps more
realistic than I'd given it credit for in the past. (It doesn't change my
belief that heavy Odo/Kira shows have often been melodramatic
bores, but you can't have everything. :-) ) A pair of Rene's --
Echevarria on script and Auberjonois in the makeup -- made Odo's
passion finally seem real to me, which was crucial if the rest of the
show was to work out at all.
"Children of Time" also broke a long-standing logjam in the Odo/Kira
relationship. If the issue was ever going to get beyond the "oh, I'm in
love, but she can't ever know about it" stage (which was generally not
working out well), Kira had to somehow find out -- and yet, it seemed
an iffy proposition at best to have Odo come out and tell her. This
way solved that problem, for it wasn't at all iffy to have an Odo who
was 200 years older and more experienced to tell her. The only
question in my mind was going to be whether the present Odo would
know Kira knew -- and I'm rather glad that he does. I'm honestly
curious as to where the relationship's going to go from here -- with
more than a little trepidation, considering Trek's track record for
romance, but curious nonetheless.
(I also had a horrible image for a short time of the trip through the
barrier or Bashir's treatments of Kira's condition giving her mild
amnesia, such that she wouldn't remember anything she'd been told.
That would've been awful, and I'm glad they avoided it.)
That leaves the fundamental dilemma of the show: could the DS9
crew go back in time and abandon everyone they've ever known (not
to mention dooming Kira to an untimely death), or avoid their
upcoming accident with the full understanding that it would mean the
nonexistence (I hesitate to call it "death") of thousands of people? It's
a tough question -- in some ways, it's similar to the one the
Enterprise-C crew faced in "Yesterday's Enterprise", except that
restoring the future would lead to their deaths, and remaining would
also lead to a fairly bleak fate. As such, the choice was a more
difficult one in many ways, and one in which there probably *is* no
Given that, the best thing to do is show all sides argued, at least for
starters -- and I think they managed that quite well. O'Brien, ever in
the here-and-now, quite successfully made the case for the "let's go
home" side of the argument despite the moral objections of others, and
Kira and Worf had interesting comments about destiny and morality
on their side. (I particularly liked O'Brien's jab at Worf's parenting
and Worf's taunt that O'Brien feared facing his destiny; they may be
friends, but that doesn't mean there aren't fundamental differences of
opinion.) In the end, I think Sisko's original call was about the only
one he could make, realistically, as difficult as it would be to your
peaceful sleep later.
The ending left me a little uncomfortable -- but given the setup, I'm
not sure there's any ending that *wouldn't*. O'Brien changing his
mind seemed reasonable after he finally got to know his descendants,
and I take it that we're meant to assume that everyone agreed with him
once he came around. However, we don't actually know that for
certain, and I think Sisko would still have some agonizing to do. (In
particular, what happens if 48 out of 49 people want to save the
colony, and one person doesn't? Can you force that one to go back
with you?) I'd like to have seen that agonizing.
Once the decision was made, though, it became a question of why
things wouldn't work (given that they couldn't actually go back
without radically altering the series), and I have to say that I rather
liked what happened here. On some level, I agree that it can feel like a
writer's cheat, in that it lets the crew make the morally "right" decision
while still avoiding any actual consequences of it -- but I'm not sure
how much I agree with that. The fact remains that *someone* did
assume responsibility for destroying the colony -- namely the future
Odo -- and even though that Odo no longer exists, that guilt must
remain somewhat in the current Odo given their link. What's more,
Odo's point that his future self felt it was right to sacrifice the colony
to save Kira raises some very disturbing implications about how
obsessive Odo's affections could become on some level, and that's
something that could prove very interesting if dealt with later on. (I'm
not sure how hopeful I should be that it *will* be dealt with, but I'm
in a good mood so I'll be optimistic about it.) For an instant, while
Sisko and Dax were theorizing about who changed the flight plan, I
wondered if it was going to remain "unsolved" from their point of
view (it seemed pretty obvious to us, I think, but not to the crew); I'm
a little disappointed that it didn't, but not surprised.
Now, some shorter points:
-- I liked Brian Everet Chandler's performance as the male "son of
Mogh", but Marybeth Massett didn't do much for me as the female
one. I did wonder two things about her, though: first, I'm
wondering if she's related to Patrick Massett, who played Duras twice
in mid-series TNG; and second, I'm wondering if anyone else thought
she looked and sounded like original "Saturday Night Live" cast
member Laraine Newman. :-)
-- For the record, Ethan H. Calk (who did the second draft of the
story) also contributed the story for "Visionary" two years ago, which
also involved some twisting around of time travel. Methinks I see a
trend. (First-draft contributor Gary Holland wrote much of season
2's "The Collaborator", a strong Kira story.)
-- I appreciated hearing Kira mention Bareil as well as Shakaar while
she talked to the future Odo; it's nice to know she hasn't completely
forgotten about it. (It was also nice to see that Shakaar's out of the
picture; while I liked him as a leader in his first appearance, it's been
all downhill from there.)
-- The location shooting was quite nice, and the music during the
planting sequence was far more jaunty than usual. I liked it; things are
-- Yedrin Dax certainly didn't look part-Klingon to me, so who else
did Dax have children with? (Similarly, I don't think the one "son of
Mogh" with ridges had any spots...)
That about wraps it up. Overall, "Children of Time" managed to do a
lot: it told an engaging story involving several characters in major
roles, delve fairly deeply into several psyches (Dax's, Worf's, Odo's
and Kira's in particular), and turn me around at least temporarily as
regards the Odo/Kira romance. Not a bad week, all in all.
So, to close:
Writing: one or two things glossed over, but not much -- and a
powerful enough story to pretty much overlook that.
Directing: Beautiful, in many ways.
Acting: Auberjonois was terrific, and there were very few weak links.
Gary Frank was quite good as Yedrin Dax, as well.
OVERALL: 9.5. Good, solid work.
The return of Eddington, as he and Sisko form an uneasy alliance.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Praying over your own grave -- that's got to be a new one."
"If the Prophets were listening, they're probably very confused."
-- Kira and future-Odo
Copyright 1997, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
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