“Children of Time”
Written by Gary Holland and Ethan H. Calk and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 5, Episode 22
Production episode 40510-520
Original air date: May 5, 1997
Station log: The Defiant is en route home following a week-long reconnaissance mission in the Gamma Quadrant. Dax, Kira, and Odo are talking in the mess hall and Kira reveals that she and Shakaar broke up a week earlier, which is news that hits Odo pretty hard on several levels.
Dax discovers a planet that has a strange energy field around it, but also the possibility of life signs. After a week in the GQ everyone wants to go home, but Dax talks Sisko into a quick survey. However, the field has an adverse effect on the ship, sending a massive shock through Kira, and damaging the ship enough that they’re not going to be able to move for a couple of days. Everyone’s a little peeved at Dax, but then Worf reveals that they’re being hailed by a settlement of about 8000 people, who appear to be mostly human—which is odd in the GQ.
The hail is from two people who identify themselves as Yedrin Dax and Miranda O’Brien. Two days from now, the Defiant’s attempt to go through the energy barrier will fail and send them two hundred years into the past. The people of the planet, now called Gaia, are the descendants of the Defiant crew. Dax scans Yedrin and finds the Dax symbiont in his belly, and Miranda has similar DNA to O’Brien. She’s descended from O’Brien and Ensign Rita Tannenbaum from engineering, whom he married ten years after the crash. O’Brien was the last to give up hope that they’d get home. They encounter a girl named Molly, who’s one of many who’ve had that name in the O’Brien/Tannenbaum line.
After the crash, they couldn’t send out a distress signal—it was two centuries in the past, the wormhole hadn’t been discovered yet—and they had to convert the Defiant to a shelter to protect themselves from the winter. Forty-eight of the forty-nine crew all lived in the ship’s wreck at first. The forty-ninth was Kira, who died from the energy discharge, which disrupted her nervous system.
However, knowing about the accident necessarily changes history. The crew can now avoid it—but doing so will cause the colonists to, in essence, cease to exist. Yedrin, however, has a plan. He says that the shock Kira received temporarily created a quantum duplicate of her. If they can re-create that effect across the Defiant, it would create a quantum duplicate of everyone. They’d still be free, and their duplicates would go back in time, allowing Gaia to exist and complete the time loop. Sisko tells Dax to evaluate Yedrin’s plan.
Back on the Defiant, Bashir checks over Kira, and also puts Odo in a containment unit—he can’t hold his shape inside the barrier. But after Bashir leaves—Odo walks in. This is a much older Odo who looks more human than the younger version, and who figured out how to counteract the barrier’s effects centuries ago. He also reveals that he loves her, has always loved her, and has regretted never telling her for two hundred years.
Kira is shocked. She had no idea Odo felt that way, and he admits that he was worried that if he admitted his feelings, he’d have ruined their friendship. Odo doesn’t expect her to throw herself into his arms, but he does want to show her the planet, enjoy the two days he will have with her before the ship tries to leave.
Dax approves of Yedrin’s plan, and informs Sisko, who’s far too busy playing with one of his descendants, an infant. One of Bashir’s descendants is a doctor, and Worf meets “the sons of Mogh,” a group of people, some descended from him, some not, who have to chosen to live their lives as Klingons. They invite him to a feast in his honor. O’Brien is the only one not enjoying himself, as he feels like he’s betrayed Keiko, Molly, and Yoshi.
Odo takes Kira to her own grave, which weirds her out more than a little, and the two hold hands as they go back to the settlement.
Dax discovers that Yedrin faked the sensor logs—there is no way the duplication trick will work, Yedrin was just trying to make sure that the Defiant went back in time like it was supposed to. Dax and Sisko are furious, but Yedrin explains that he’s spent the last two hundred years going from guilty over Kira’s death and the Defiant being stranded—because they only went in due to Dax’s insistence on investigating the planet—to pride in what they’ve built. But Sisko will not ask Kira to sacrifice herself, will not force his crew to abandon their families.
The mood in the settlement is grim. The Sons of Mogh cancel the feast and say they do not wish to die by ceasing to exist, as that is not a warrior’s death. They have no enemies to fight. They ask Worf to take their lives, which Worf promises to do the next day.
Kira surprises everyone by saying she’s willing to sacrifice herself to save the settlement. Worf is on her side, and Dax is conflicted, but Bashir, O’Brien, and Sisko are adamant that they try to return to the station. The only person whose opinion matters, of course, is Sisko, and his decision is final. They’re going home.
The next day is Planting Day, a very important day in this colony that depends on agriculture. The crew agrees to help till the fields as a final gesture. As an added bonus, Worf brings the Sons of Mogh to the fields, giving them an enemy to fight: time. They need to plant the fields by sunset.
By the end of the day, even O’Brien, who has been the biggest proponent of going home, admits that he can’t just let these people die. The Defiant will go back in time. It’s an emotional farewell. It’s most emotional for Odo, who can’t bear the notion of Kira dying, but Kira herself is adamant. She does, however, favor him with a final kiss.
The Defiant heads out of orbit on autopilot, the course plotted by Yedrin to guarantee that they’ll go back in time. But at the last minute the Defiant changes course and clears the barrier into normal space. They don’t go back in time, and scans reveal absolutely no sign of the settlement or the inhabitants. Gaia has been wiped from existence.
Sisko and Dax theorize that it was Yedrin who altered the flight plan, but Odo—who is now back to his normal self—reveals the truth. The older Odo linked with his younger self, so he knows all that transpired, including that it was Odo who changed the flight plan. He wanted Kira to live, and was willing to sacrifice 8000 people for her. Kira is devastated, and all Odo can say is that his other self thought it was right.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Yedrin’s nonsense plan to save both the timeline and the Defiant is very similar to what happened to William Riker in TNG’s “Second Chances.” That actually helps sell its believability.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is an interesting study here, as he’s impressed by what the inhabitants of Gaia have built, is particularly taken with an infant who’s descended from him, and dives into Planting Day full-tilt—but he also shows no hesitation in saying that trying to get the Defiant back to DS9 is the right thing, up until the last minute.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is put in the unique position of visiting her own grave. She also for the first time learns how Odo really feels about her.
There is no honor in being pummeled: The Sons of Mogh try to live as Klingons, mostly by being hunters rather than the farmers that the rest of the settlement lives as, and there’s an impression that the “Klingons” try to live as far apart from the rest of the settlement as possible. Worf’s bringing them to Planting Day bridges the gap between the two aspects of Gaia’s society by reminding them that all enemies aren’t physical.
The slug in your belly: Dax is one of only two members of the original crew who “survive,” as Yedrin has the Dax symbiont, and carries the guilt of Jadzia’s curiosity leading to the crash and Kira’s death, as well as the greatest attachment to the settlement precisely because he has, in essence, been there for all of it.
Yedrin also convinces Sisko that he’s really Dax by mentioning an incident with Curzon and a dancer on Pelios Station. Sisko cuts him off before he can elaborate.
Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: Odo is the other person who lives through all two hundred years, but unlike Yedrin, he doesn’t seem to have any connection to the rest of the colony. We only actually see him with Kira, the rest of the colonists don’t even talk to him or speak of him, and in the end, Odo’s willing to sacrifice the entire settlement to keep Kira alive.
Rules of Acquisition: When Dax programmed the educational software for the settlement’s kids, she used Quark as the avatar for the math instruction, since he was always good with numbers.
Tough little ship: The Defiant is converted by the crew into the basis of the entire settlement.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Bashir thinks about asking out the woman he was paired up with in Gaia’s earliest days, while Odo finally reveals his true feelings to Kira. Dax also gets a preview of her and Worf’s marriage from Yedrin describing the Dax-Worf wedding on Gaia.
Keep your ears open:“Are you the son of Mogh?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Is it true you can kill someone just by looking at them?”
“Only when I am angry.”
One of the kids meeting Worf for the first time.
Welcome aboard: Gary Frank plays Yedrin while Jennifer S. Parsons, last seen as a nurse in Voyager’s “Caretaker,” plays Miranda. Davida Williams, Doren Fein, and Jesse Littlejohn play the three kids we see, while Marybeth Massett and Brian Evaret Chandler play the “Klingons.”
Trivial matters: The conception of this episode dates back to “The Collaborator,” when that episode’s co-writer Gary Holland saw Odo’s reaction to Kira’s comment that she was in love with Bareil. Rene Auberjonois played it as if he was personally devastated that Kira was in love with someone other than him, and Holland wanted to explore that, so he pitched a time travel story in which a future version of Odo met Kira. But the “Past Tense” two-parter had just been done and “The Visitor” was on the docket, so they put it off. Then they got a similar pitch from Ethan H. Calk, so they bought both, had each write up a full story proposal independently of each other, and Rene Echevarria combined them into a single script.
The original plan was for Yedrin to be the one responsible, as Sisko and Dax speculated, but Ira Steven Behr insisted it be Odo.
The show will not return to the Gamma Quadrant again until the series finale.
The story of Sisko and the dancer on Pelios Station is told in Steven Barnes’s story “The Music Between the Notes” in The Lives of Dax.
The prologue of Gods of Night, the first book in the Destiny trilogy by David Mack, takes place immediately after the end of this episode.
Walk with the Prophets: “Time is their enemy. We should help them defeat it.” This is a brutal, nasty, tragic episode with genuine emotional stakes. The crew is given an awful choice here. Either they go home and live their lives like normal—but at the expense of a lot of lives. The number 8000 is thrown around a lot, but that’s not actually accurate—it’s not just the people currently living on Gaia, but everyone who ever lived on Gaia. That’s a lot more than 8000…
But if they do go back in time, they kill Kira, Jake never sees his father again (and we already know from “The Visitor” that that’s a bad thing), Keiko never sees her husband again, Molly and Yoshi never see their father again (hell, Yoshi never really knows his father), and so on.
The discussion over what to do after Kira announces that she’s okay with sacrificing herself is an excellent one, the strongest of its type since the Prime Directive colloquy in Picard’s quarters in TNG’s “Pen Pals.” Everyone in the room has a legitimate point, the question isn’t as simple as Kira’s belief in destiny or O’Brien’s (completely understandable) rigidity, and the discussion is an excellent one.
And then Planting Day puts it all in perspective, not just for O’Brien. These are people, and they’ve built something wonderful. That deserves to be celebrated and that doesn’t deserve to die.
Finally, we have Odo. It’s interesting to me that we never once see Odo interact with anyone other than Kira. Yedrin and Miranda never mention him (except in the abstract as one of the survivors), Odo isn’t there for Planting Day or anything else. He’s a non-factor in the colony, and you wonder if he even considers himself a part of it. Or has he just been sitting around waiting for Kira to come back while feeling lonely and awful?
The episode isn’t without its flaws. There’s a big elephant in the room that is never addressed and needed to be: Rita Tannenbaum is never even seen. She’s an engineer, which means she’s actually in O’Brien’s chain of command on the station. How are they supposed to work together knowing what happened on Gaia? Bashir has the luxury of being able to ask his would-be wife out, and Dax and Worf now know that they have at least a shot at a future together, but O’Brien and Tannenbaum are now going to be awash in a sea of awkwardness moving forward. And they can’t be the only ones. Hell, Sisko obviously paired off with someone (the only way 48 people—47, really, since Odo doesn’t procreate—turn into 8000 is if everyone produces a bunch of kids), which means he was just as unfaithful to Yates as O’Brien was to Keiko. It’s even more difficult in Sisko’s case because it, of necessity, had to be someone under his command. How does he deal with that? How does she?
That this isn’t addressed is frustrating, but not fatal to the episode, which overall is brilliantly done. Worf’s reaction to the Sons of Mogh is particularly compelling, and I like the way that little splinter developed, especially since you know that Worf stayed full Klingon as long as he could. And I love little Molly sassing the chief off, with Sisko’s grinning response, “She’s an O’Brien, all right!”
And the closing scene is just brutal. Kira’s shock and dismay that the older Odo did what he did is palpable. She was just starting to get used to the idea that Odo was someone who might be a romantic partner, and then he goes and does this. And of course the younger Odo is stuck getting the brunt of this, as he’s just the messenger—but it was also him. Kind of.
Ultimately, what makes this episode work is that it’s messy and unpleasant and difficult and makes you think a lot.
Warp factor rating: 8
Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that his new Star Trek tome The Klingon Art of War is out now in bookstores and online (ordering links for the latter can be found here) and that his Sleepy Hollow novel Children of the Revolution will be out in September (preordering links available here).