Monday, November 23, 2015

Deep Space Nine, Season 6: Time's Orphan Space Nine, Season 6
"Time's Orphan"
Airdate: May 20, 1998
146 of 173 produced
146 of 173 aired


Immediately upon their return to the station, Chief O'Brien's family experiences another horrendous tragedy - the loss of their daughter to a time portal. When they get her back, the results aren't as they expect.

 Hi, Mom and Dad. For some reason, I sleep in a tree. But whatever you do, DON'T PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING if given the option.

Matthew: It takes some doing to get past the initial conceit of this episode - no, not a time displaced kid. That's interesting enough from both an emotional and science fiction angle. What I can't get beyond is the threadbare justification for not just trying again to beam a younger version of Molly back from the portal. "We don't have the right to take those ten years from her" is BULLSHIT. No human parent in this entire goddamned universe would 1. willingly sacrifice ten years of participation time with their child's development and growth; 2. would willingly consign their child (let alone any human being) to ten years of solitary confinement, with all the attendant psychological distress and long term damage. It's so frankly unbelievable that it almost derails the episode entirely, and within the first five minutes.

Kevin: The philosophical angles aside, I was most nagged that there was a heretofore undiscovered PORTAL THROUGH TIME just hanging out in a picnic spot. Everything felt really contrived, and I think the contributes to sense of not really being connected to the story. I think this needed some tweaking to make the story work. What if Molly turned into a basically functional person, but that was it? I think there could have been a parallel to modern day conversations about children on the autism spectrum. Is it a disability so much as a difference? If they ended up with a Molly who could take care of herself and manage her emotions, etc. but as a result really didn't have a place in Federation society, the grays become more interesting and more nuanced. What if they could offer Molly the chance to undo the last ten years and she refused? If you really want to dig into this story, you need a conflict that feels less one sides, and for obvious reasons, feels like we certainly aren't going to have but one outcome, the one we got.

Matthew: I will at least praise the idea of the plot, time displacement and its effect on a family. Were we to make the setup less creaky (not to mention the resolution), it would be an engaging scenario. Of course, the whole thing raises untold questions which are not addressed here, and are never addressed again. Now, to be fair, so did an episode like "City on the Edge of Forever." But that had the virtue of being a good story with credible human motivations and crisp pacing. I also liked, in theory at least, the idea of a child losing language, becoming feral in a "Nell" sort of way. That said, scenes of a grown kid grunting incessantly do not exactly lend themselves to scintillating viewing.

Kevin:  I agree. Like I said above, there has to be some shading. The episode just makes it clear that returning her to her original state is the only conceivable outcome. I think had they left her with some agency, or the sense that she valued the person she was, that could make the debate more fun.

Matthew: Miles' plan to repatriate Molly in the past MAKES NO SENSE. Here we have an obviously mentally ill girl who has been severely traumatized by her ordeal. She is having trouble adjusting back into society. Solution? Strand her back in the ordeal that made her this way. "She'll be all right!" Miles avers. What the flipping f#$%? In any real world with real human characters, Keiko would have been like "Oh, no you DIDN'T, mofo. That's a cop-out. We do not abandon our children, especially into a traumatic situation of complete isolation for the rest of their natural lives, which will undoubtedly be shortened by lack of human companionship and medical care. I want a divorce, asshole." But instead, she just sort of shakes her head, packs her daughter a carry-on bag to last her the rest of her days, and GOES ALONG WITH IT. I might have almost bought it if the choice had been to go back as a family to the past. Even then, it's frankly insane. Why not just move back to Earth, where "holosuite" time would not be limited by Klingon interlopers? The whole "dilemma" of the back half of this plot (lose your child forever to psychologists, lose your child forever to forced abandonment) is a false dichotomy, and it's so obvious as to be almost insulting to the viewer.

Kevin: I think the other choice that could have given this episode some real teeth is making this the straw that breaks the camel's back, at least for Keiko. Between prison terms and possessions, the O'Briens have been through a lot, but little has directly happened to the kids, since we'll assume little Yoshi is unaware of his gestational change of address. This could be the time that the wonders of the final frontier no longer outweigh the risks. If she presents Miles with an ultimatum, in the middle of a war no less, there's a good character conflict, one I think the pair could have given some real life to.

Matthew: The ending is a total cop-out after the outlandish scenario our characters are put through. For one thing, why was old Molly sent back to the precise point where young Molly was waiting? For another, you're telling me that young Molly was just sitting there, when the hole she obviously just fell through is waiting for her to try walking through it again? It ends up robbing any potential emotional impact the false choice of the prior scene might have built.

Kevin: I don't have much to add here, but I think you hit the nail on the head with the idea that the choices all points were falsely limited to force drama.

Matthew: The B-story was a totally pointless throwaway. That's all I have to say.

Kevin: I agree it's not the best material, but Worf is not a jackass this time, so there's that. And I empathize with the idea of a man, especially the one with the crappy-parent baggage of Worf, would really struggle with the realities of parenting a toddler. I think with some tweaks, it could have managed a A-plot of a "slice of life" episode.


Matthew: Well, Colm Meaney and Rosalind Chao give it their best shot. They try and try to inject actual human emotions into a scenario so ludicrous that it defies belief. I can't say they succeeded, but they certainly were not awful to watch.I think Meaney was a bit wooden here, which might indicate he had problems with the script.

Kevin: I will say that the actors have certainly nailed a very comfortable rapport with each other. I believe these people, more than any other emotion layered on top, simply know each other in a way that is only achieved through a decade of living together. It always gives their relationship a reality, and it makes all the more sad that we didn't really get to stretch it in any way this time.

Matthew: Michelle Krusiec had a challenging role, with almost no dialogue, and I think she got the physical presence aspect of it down pretty well. But it didn't change my life or anything. Hana Hatae was about as good as a 5 year old might be expected to be. Except she was 9 when this was filmed.  Hmm.

Kevin: I think Krusiec avoided the obvious pitfalls of the role and that is commendable in itself.

Production Values

The time portal was pretty bland as effects go. I was not terribly impressed with either the energy effect or the cave set. The outdoor location was nice, of course. Otherwise, this was a pretty standard bottle show, and there isn't much to recommend it or to pan it based on.

Kevin: Nothing much to add here, except to ask where older Molly got the clothes and the belt. Just asking.


Matthew: I have almost talked myself into a 1 here, because of how ludicrous the story is. But I can recognize some decent sci-fi bones underneath this shambling mess of an episode. It at least provoked thought. So I'll grudgingly give it a 2.

Kevin: A one was never really on the table for me, as I think the emotional tone carried by the O'Briends works well enough in isolation. This is certainly at best a forgettable episode, made all the moreso by all the missed opportunities to explore parenthood, mental capacity, or both. I agree with the 2 for a total of 4.

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