Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 3: Visionary

Deep Space Nine, Season 3
Airdate: February 27, 1995
62 of 173 produced
62 of 173 aired


While recovering from an engineering mishap, Chief O'Brien is alarmed to discover that he is repeatedly shifting forward and then back in time by several hours. Armed with this foreknowledge, he must try to undo the various calamities he has witnessed, not to mention survive.

Hmm, twin beds. Maybe the O'Briens are worse off than we thought?


Matthew:  First and foremost, this is a solidly entertaining show. O'Brien is our everyman through the sci-fi wringer yet again, and the basic notion of jumping a few hours into the future is fun. The overall aspect of O'Brien witnessing his own death, and the general outlines of the mystery plot, were fun. So despite its other problems, it was neither boring nor overpowerlingly dumb. The pacing was good, with a nice crackerjack teaser of O'Brien being injured and then shifting. This episode "got to the point" more effectively than many DS9 shows have. Each future reveal was spaced and exhibited well, for a good level of excitement.

Kevin: What I really enjoyed about this episode was how they mined the creepiness of seeing your own death a few times in a row. Particularly in the scene in the infirmary with Bashir after O'Brien dies of the undiscovered radiation poisoning, I was really moved both by the use of the time travel trick and the character moment between the two. Each iteration of the jump and figuring out how to prevent the future were fun. Everyone struck the right tone of intelligent curiosity about what was happening. I liked all the investigation scenes, actually. Odo's a good detective, and the scene in the quarters explaining how the replicator got jimmied into a transporter was a fun little scene to watch.

Matthew: Look, I like time travel shows. I think a well-constructed time travel show can really tease the mind. TNG excelled at doing "different" time travel, in the vein of shows like "Cause and Effect" and "Time Squared." Funny that I mention those episodes, because this episode is basically a carbon copy of the latter, just with more time jumps and slightly wonkier logic, mixed with a liberal sprinkle of the destruction hook from "Cause." My questions are multifold, and I think they're rather important ones: Does O'Brien disappear bodily or does his consciousness travel? The way things are portrayed seem to indicate the latter (O'Brien stumbles into Ops during one jump, and that's all his fellows seem to notice), while the dialogue seems to say the former (he gets injected bodily with radiation, which pulls his body to different times). Why does O'Brien always land on a dramatically important area of the station, as opposed to just floating in space? No explanation is given (potential one - he is drawn towards the other O'Brien like a magnet). For the final jump, why can't they inject someone else with radiation, as opposed to killing O'Brien? No indication is given that he is the only one capable of the travel, the radiation is the key. Why not give it to someone not already damaged by it and the jumping? Speaking of the method of the jumps, why would the travel still work when the Romulan Warbird is attacking, moving, uncloaked? It was indicated that it was the orbit of the cloaked Warbird that created the regular jumping pattern. Finally, the time lines kept changing due to the jump. Does this mean it is a layered set of alternate time lines (like "Parallels"), or something more complicated? Again, no indication is given. 

Kevin: I think that the time jumping plot is a little too convenient. Particularly in this season of Deep Space Nine they seem to be making time travel a little too easy, certainly accidentally. Fortunately, they dispense the explanation for really quickly so doesn't drag on the show. As for the mechanism of the traveling, I read it as he left bodily and returned so quickly that it didn't appear as if he left to an outside observer. I think what particularly saves the plot is that is anchored in the larger Dominion arc. We'll get to the characterization of the Romulans themselves in a minute, but the idea of the Romulans coming to interview the crew and the Klingons sending intelligence officers to be there makes sense in the broader story.

Matthew: So I guess in theory this is a Romulan show. I kind of have some issues with it as such, though. For one thing, the writers seem to be writing the Romulans as Vulcans. Where's the passion? The deviousness? These guys are just sort of stoical jerks. Also, the whole tetryon emission/quantum singularity thing was a dead giveaway to any astute fan of the franchise, but it seemed to be being played as a mystery element, only to be revealed past minute 30. This had the effect of, at a minimum, annoying me, ad at a maximum, making the characters look foolish. The last aspect is yet another Romulan time travel thing owing to their technology's side effects (the prior one being in "Past Tense"). Do they time travel all the time, then? It sure seems like either this cloaking device thing, or this radiation-plus-singularity thing would make it the case. If so, why not take over the universe? Also, can I just ask: Can anyone actually collapse a wormhole? I thought it was established in TNG that it is impossible.

Kevin: I'm trying to remember if I figured it out before the plot revealed it, and I honestly can't remember, but in my defense, I was 12 when this aired. I do remember thinking after the reveal that the crew should have realized it sooner. I also thought that between this and "Timescape," the quantum singularity seems an extremely unsafe form of propulsion. I liked the individual interrogation scenes, though that was more the other actors than the Romulans. I liked that they looped in the events of "Heart of Stone" without going over the top. In terms of my nagging questions, I would have liked a little more exploration of O'Brien being out of sync with the rest of the world. I think that would have a bigger effect, though the button of O'Brien knowing the dabo result was pretty funny.


Matthew: I think I will be forgiven for just stipulating to Colm Meany's general superbness here. From this point forward, I will only mention him at length if he fails to exude everyman charm, and deliver his technobabble with aplomb. Instead, I'll focus on Siddig El Fadil, who I think did a great job as O'Brien's friend and confidante. He was really believable in the role, and handled the contrast between concern and wry humor quite well.

Kevin: I am happy to promote Colm Meany to the same class as Gates McFadden where our universal praise for their acting can be taken as read. I found the quiet scene in the infirmary to be quite touching. For such a brief scene, particularly one we knew was going to be undone in moments, I was still touched by it. Siddig managed a lot of loss and regret, both professional and personal, when he described not catching the residual damage that would kill O'Brien, and it contrasted nicely with more humorous "Well I guess I should listen to me," bit when O'Brien returns.

Matthew: The Romulans did nothing for me. I know for a fact that Jack Shearer is capable of so much more, as he demonstrated in his Voyager appearances as various admirals. Annette Helde has also done better in other Trek roles. I don't blame them a much as a deficient script portrayal of the characters. They had no clear motivations or passions, and the actors didn't supply them either.

Kevin: You know who was a great Romulan? Martha Hackett. That's who. It would have been great to have her back, and it would have made total sense, too. Still, as you say, they both do extremely well in other episodes, so it's gotta be the writing. That being said, I liked the main cast in their interrogation scenes, especially Quark. "At least I'm consistent," about his lying may be one of his best deliveries.

Production Values

Matthew: The split screen, body double, etc. effects are center stage. They need to convince us of the multiple O'Briens, and I think for the most part they do When opticals were needed to sell us on it, the lighting was pretty good. Now, I think most viewers probably still had a nagging feeling in their heads while watching it, but each time Trek has employed the effects, they've gotten better.

Kevin: This is definitely in the upper echelons of the split screen effect. It was a good call to put both O'Briens in conversation a dark, oddly lit bedroom and dimness hides the seams and the pin lights account for any lighting discrepancies. The sound guy did a great job blending the conversations for the "I hate time travel," line.

Matthew: Given that the explosion of the station is this show's "Cause and Effect" moment, it had to hold up. I'm happy to report that it did. Whatever model they blew up looked reasonably like the hero station model, and the explosion itself was satisfying enough. The shots of the runabouts escaping the station were also quite competent.

Kevin: I agree, overall. In the plus column, the explosion was really big and the sections of the station felt like they were moving slowly enough to give them the appropriate sense of scale, and the lateral movement from the source of the explosion did a good job implying zero-g. My only complaints are that the scene was not long enough and there was no glamorous close-up, like the nacelle in Cause and Effect. Still, overall, it was very dramatic, and even though I immediately thought "That's like Cause and Effect," I was not unhappy about that at all.


Matthew: This is a 3 for me. I've got deep problems with some of the plot. But the characterization of the principals is sound, the effects are good, and the general entertainment quotient is enough to have me engaged throughout. A pretty average tale, all told.

Kevin: I agree on the 3. The story setup is a little flat, and the Romulans are underdone, but the scenes centering around a character we love being put through the ringer again, are pretty good. Overall, I am always entertained by this episode. That makes a total of 6.


  1. Hi guys, discovered your blog by chance over Christmas and have been binge reading your reviews (backwards!) ever since. Great stuff.

    Do you know why Martha Hackett's Romulan character didn't become a recurring guest? It was always so odd that she never appeared again after being introduced as a crucial part of the Defiants original mission

  2. According to her Memory Alpha article, they cast her soon after as Seska because of her performance in DS9, so I guess it was just the actress doing something else.