Friday, November 7, 2014

Deep Space Nine, Season 5: Children of Time

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.html
Deep Space Nine: Season 5
"Children of Time"
Airdate: May 5, 1997
118 of 173 produced
118 of 173 aired


Introduction

The crew of the Defiant finds themselves trapped around a strange new world - one containing a colony of their own descendants, who have been building a life for themselves for the past 200 years.

Odo demonstrated all he's learned about women in the space of 200 years - by taking one to her own gravesite.




Writing

Matthew: If our blog does have some sort of temporally retroactive effect on the writers of DS9, this episode might be the evidence for it - finally, they've given us a straight-up sci-fi story. On the whole, I enjoy it, but that enjoyment is sabotaged by a few key flaws. On the plus side, I like the novel twist on a time travel story. We are given the setup of having the crew travel back 200 years and being stranded, creating a whole civilization out of their offspring. Cool! When you push at it too hard, though, it starts to unravel. How can the Trill symbiont survive over all these generations with less and less Trill DNA available for the host? There's only one Trill on the ship, and even if we posit 50 years between mating instances, we're talking about a host who is only 1/16 Trill. Indeed, how can these people even have a viable gene pool, given 200 years and a starting cohort of 79? Our best research indicates that they'd all be inbred hicks well before 200 years in.

Kevin: The weird part of the Dax symbiont is that barring somehow artificially increasingly the pool of available hostS, every host is a lineal descendant, and I can't really imagine anything weirder than remembering your own conception. Eeesh. That being said, I enjoy the twist on the standard time travel story. Even for a "we have to preserve the timeline story," it's a novel case, and that keeps it from being boring.

Matthew: The ethical dimension of the story is interesting on its face. Do the DS9 crew have an obligation to preserve a timeline, at great personal cost, that results in the lives and times of 8,000 people? On a sci-fi level, the picture is muddled by the story - Yedrin proposes a quantum duplication, a la "Second Chances," that would allow them to have their proverbial cake and eat it, too. This plan is apparently plausible enough to command the assent of the crew. But then we find out it's a hoax, and we are given the "one world" temporal theory that animates so many (but not all) Trek time travel tales. There is only one history, and anything you do or don't do will alter it. In which case, asking a group of people to choose one avenue, which involves great personal cost, simply because you've given them a preview of the consequences, should not be terribly persuasive to anyone who thinks clearly. Every choice we make has myriad impacts on a "one world" timeline, and even with a preview of one set of outcomes, without previews of the other sets of outcomes, the choice remains purely hypothetical. Our crew is presented as not thinking very clearly, though. They're basically all convinced by a planting festival - even Chief O'Brien, who has spent the entire episode to that point chafing uncomfortable at the thought of abandoning his wife and two children back home. Seriously?

Kevin: The hook of setting them as their present day descendants from a trip to the past almost, but just almost, gets them past what I feel is the easy out for this dilemma that you pick out above, Matt. If they had been given a simple, straight forward glimpse of the future, I doubt they would feel so beholden to the outcome. If nothing else, it's not like this crew would not interact with the world and have children, like say, Sisko and Kassidy's eventual child, and don't those hypothetical people have as much right to exist as these people? But for the fact that they are viewing them as somehow "already happened," I don't think they would feel near as obliged to create this future as opposed to any other.

Matthew: The Odo angle to the story, in a vacuum, is pretty good. If this had been the episode that quashed once and for all the Odo/Kira thing (because she is disgusted that he would snuff out 8,000 lives in order to save hers), that would have been superb. Alas, it didn't happen this way. I won't penalize the episode for this, though, because that's the sin of future writers. What I do think falls short here is Kira's basic attitude towards Odo. Her complete obliviousness to Odo's feelings reaches new heights of risibility. This is an intelligent, observant person, and Odo is by no means a subtle character who hides his feelings well. He's practically autistic in his inability to accurately read emotions and suppress his own.

Kevin: I think, ultimately, the problem of the Odo/Kira story is that it's taken straight out of the playbook of Standard Nerd Unrequited Crushes that have otherwise filled the pages of comic books and sci-fi, let alone other genres, for ages, and this is one of those times that I am going tag the writing team for not having a Jeri Taylor, or some equivalent female voice. I think the reason Kira's awareness and response to Odo's feelings don't ring true is because she's not a necessary part of this equation. She has to act in the way that causes Odo the most angst, so she does. She is an object of love, not a participant in it, so her reactions are never going to read as organic.

Matthew: This is a pretty common sin on Trek, but it still bugs me when an entire population, be it 80 or 8,000, blithely accepts some horrible outcome in the name of some greater good. No one on the planet was going to bitch the crew out for being so selfish, no one was going to demand the right to exist? Conversely, when the fern-planting jamboree convinces the crew to strand itself and create this timeline, no one on the crew voices an objection? These choices sapped the episode of drama. It's one of the things that makes Voyager's Tuvix stand out so much - the character pleads for his life, instead of rolling over to preserve the arbitrary sanctity of one timeline or another. One interesting character angle that I felt was under-developed was the idea of two nearly immortal beings (Dax and Odo) being sort of caretakers f this colony. In fact, they were in conflict, but the characters never shared a scene, which was a real missed opportunity for tension.

Kevin: I think the implicit ethical sin of dooming the duplicate crew was the unexplored bit of the episode. Even if the plan worked, I would not be okay never seeing my family again just because I knew a duplicate was seeing them. That may make it worse and cause its own existential crisis.

Acting

Matthew: Nana Visitor is really on a roll lately. Despite being given completely inscrutable character motivations, she does a great job playing her part here. Her scenes at her grave are excellent. Rene Auberjonois also does great work, too, unshackled by his makeup and his character's severe limitations.He really conveyed the sense of having lived an additional 200 years.

Kevin: There were a lot of layers under that grave scene. I can understand it from a character perspective, that given the number of times she barely avoided a death surrounded by violence that her number finally being up, but a necessary piece of starting the idyllic society she saw would make a modicum of sense to Kira and the way she has portrayed her faith, and in a few long starts, Visitor telegraphed that beautifully.

Matthew: Gary Frank was quite good as Yedrin. He was by no means a posterboard villain. His character's motives were clear and his emotional story rang true. Frank must have done some nice work with Terry Farrell behind the scenes on "getting" the Dax character. Her reactions and her conflict at having "caused" their predicament were really nice.

Kevin: Farrel has a "regret" face that is marked by the way she tights the muscles around her eyes and Yedrin did a really good job of replicating it. I liked everyone in the colony, actually. More than most colonies, no one felt two-dimensional. The nitpicking analysis of the philosophy aside, the people themselves were a strong argument for continuing their existence.

Production Values

Matthew: The location shoot and lighting for Kira's grave were transcendent. It's too bad we don't get more locations like this in Star Trek. It looks like the rolling, wind swept hills of California wine country, but an admirable job was done of framing any modern living contrivances out of the shot. The planting scene was nice, but the fact that all the plants were ferns and were pre-wrapped took me out of the moment.

Kevin: There is something about an actual landscape that even a great set will never quite replicate. The lighting guy definitely earned his union paycheck this week. There was a lovely, soft quality to the light in the scene which helped underscore Kira's apparent sense of peace.

Matthew: The character clothing and makeup was all pretty good. The Klingons, despite raising the obvious question of just who Worf impregnated), had nice hybrid-style makeup and clothing that evoked their "trapper" sensibilities. The colony itself had a similar look to other well-done soundstage colonies in Trek (e.g. "The Inner Light," "Shadowplay").

Conclusion

Matthew: Looking at what I've written above, I keep seeing "missed opportunity." There's a lot to like in this episode, but every cool bit seems tempered by a choice that dialed things back. Of perhaps greater concern is this story's reversal of Odo and Kira's recent character developments, in which they both find new loves and move on. Time for a retcon, I guess. So overall, despite nice acting and scenery, this remains a 3 for me.

Kevin: I am going with the 4. I think the setup is sufficiently novel and the acting sufficiently good to make this interesting enough for me to merit the elevated rating. That makes a total of 7 from us.

Podcast



1 comment:

  1. My favorite part in this episode (and with that I mean least favorite part) is when Kira says she broke up with Shakaar because an Orb or some shit told her to. I can't believe she said that with a straight face. I like Kira but her backwards superstitions truly bring out the idiot in her and lower her IQ by 10 points every time she says she did this or that because prophets blah blah. I laughed pretty hard when she said that, not just because it is idiotic and stupid, but because it reminded me of my friend Laura during freshman year in college who said her boyfriend broke up with her cause the Ouija board told him to. I think he was fucking with her and she didn't really believe it, which is why Kira really believing it makes it so hilarious.

    ReplyDelete