Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Time’s Orphan”

“Time’s Orphan”
Written by Joe Menosky and Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 6, Episode 24
Production episode 40510-548
Original air date: May 20, 1998
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Keiko, Molly, and Yoshi have returned to DS9. To celebrate, the entire O’Brien family is taking a trip to the Bajoran colony of Golana for a picnic. They were last there when Keiko was pregnant with Yoshi. While there, Molly announces (while Keiko brushes her hair) that she’s going to be an “exobologist” when she grows up. O’Brien also makes it clear that, war notwithstanding, he’s not sending his wife and kids away again. If the station is ever in danger again, he’ll put in for a transfer.

Molly goes wandering off—and then screams. O’Brien finds her in a cave, where she’s hanging over a cliff (ahem). She slips, falls into a pool of water with a strange accompanying special effect—and then the water disappears.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Time's Orphan

Kira leads a team to Golana where Dax determines that it’s a time portal and that Molly was sent three centuries into the past. They’re trying to reactivate the portal with varying degrees of success. According to Odo’s research, the civilization that built the portal disappeared 2000 years ago, and the planet was uninhabited between then and when Bajor colonized it seventy-five years ago. Which means Molly’s all alone in the past.

They get the portal working again, and they punch a transporter beam through it to beam Molly back—but the girl they bring back is eighteen years old, and completely feral. Bashir has to sedate her until they can get back to DS9. Her language skills are eroded, and she barely remembers her parents. Sisko converts a cargo bay into an environment similar to that of Golana three hundred years ago, and O’Brien and Keiko try to reconnect with her (they leave Yoshi with Worf and Dax). They offer her food, give her the doll she slept with, and play ball with her. She also responds to Keiko brushing her hair, remembering when Keiko brushed Molly’s own hair. She also makes a crude drawing of Golana.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Time's Orphan

Eventually she speaks actual words: Molly, home, Mommy, and Daddy. The O’Briens take her to their cabin—but that’s not the home she’s talking about. She wants to go back to Golana. So they re-create Golana on the holosuite, and Molly is indescribably happy. But when O’Brien’s time in the holosuite is up, he has to deactivate the program, and Molly goes batshit crazy, tearing Quark’s apart, attacking dozens of people, including a Tarkalean she stabs with a broken bottle. Unfortunately, the Tarkalean is pressing charges, and they have no choice but to institutionalize her. However, she can’t even handle being in one of Odo’s cells without being sedated, which is not a long-term solution.

O’Brien has a plan which he stupidly thinks he can keep from Keiko until she pretty much beats it out of him: they’ll steal a runabout, take her back to Golana, and send her back through the portal to the world she actually knows and can survive in.

However, Odo is a better security chief than the O’Briens are thieves and they’re caught before they can take the runabout. But then Odo lets them go anyhow. They send her through the portal with a knife, as well as the hairbrush and her doll, and a couple of big hugs.

Molly goes through the portal—and finds herself as a little girl, even wearing the same bracelet that she herself has been wearing all along. Once again, O’Brien got the exact time wrong, instead opening the portal to when it was when Molly first fell through. Older Molly leads younger Molly to the portal and sends her through, along with the doll. As soon as she goes through, older Molly says, “Molly home” and then disappears in a puff of illogic.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Time's Orphan

Keiko and O’Brien completely lose it and hug the stuffing out of Molly and bring her home. Everyone lives happily ever after (after a token mention of a hearing, which O’Brien will get through unscathed by virtue of his being in the opening credits), and Molly gives them a drawing that looks almost exactly like the one older Molly made of Golana.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Dax uses chroniton decay to determine how far back in time Molly has gone, because chronitons are made from plot-conventientium.

The Sisko is of Bajor: O’Brien says that Sisko will represent him at his hearing, which is hilarious given that his sole previous legal experience was defending Worf against a totally nonexistent crime

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira takes care of Yoshi while O’Brien and Dax work to reactivate the portal, and she is very good with him—unsurprising, given that she hauled him around in her womb for five months. She also allows as how she might want a kid some day, which gives Odo pause, since he is unlikely to be the father of such.

There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf takes his and Dax’s roles as Yoshi’s caretakers very seriously because he wants to prove to Dax that he will be a good father to their children. Given how horribly he raised Alexander, you can understand why Dax would be gun-shy on the subject of having kids with him. But it also means he overreacts when Yoshi gets a minor bump while roughhousing, though he eventually realizes his overreaction, especially when Yoshi imprints a bit on the big lug.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo captures the O’Briens when they try to smuggle Molly off the station, because he’s just that awesome. Then he lets them go anyhow. Dating Kira has turned him into a total softie.

The slug in your belly: Dax has had nine children over the course of the symbiont’s life—five as a mother, four as a father.

Victory is life: Apparently the war hasn’t affected the station all that much—and indeed, there’s been very little actual fighting anywhere near the station, all the war stuff we’ve seen has been elsewhere—so O’Brien feels safe bringing his family home.

What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: The O’Briens re-create Golana in one of Quark’s holosuites, but he can only reserve it for short periods of time, and having home taken away from her just makes Molly crankier.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Keiko and O’Brien are so focused on smooching, that they don’t notice Molly cartwheeling off into the distance.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Time's Orphan

Keep your ears open: “I am a Klingon warrior and a Starfleet officer. I have piloted starships through Dominion minefields. I have stood in battle against Kelvans twice my size. I courted and won the heart of the magnificent Jadzia Dax. If I can do these things, I can make this child go to sleep.”

“Talk about losing perspective.”

Worf quoting the 24th-century version of Go the Fuck to Sleep and Dax not being impressed.

Welcome aboard: Rosalind Chao is back as Keiko, having been absent since Yoshi’s birth in “The Begotten.” Keiko, Molly, and Yoshi were established in “Call to Arms” as having gone to Earth where it was safe in anticipation of war breaking out. Molly is played by both Hana Hatae (as usual) and Michelle Krusiec (as an adult).

Trivial matters: Joe Menosky’s original pitch for this episode was as a TNG episode with Alexander as the child who fell down a rabbit hole and came back aged. It was meant as a way of writing Alexander off the show, but Michael Piller didn’t go for it, in part because it turned out that Alexander was Piller’s mother’s favorite character on the show. (Oh, what we might have been spared if Piller’s mom had liked someone else instead…) Menosky’s pitch was reworked somewhat into “Firstborn” on TNG, but Rene Echevarria pitched it to Ira Steven Behr, who finally went for it and assigned the script to Bradley Thompson & David Weddle.

O’Brien’s use of the expletive “Bollocks” was censored in the UK. It’s not the first time European profanity was used on modern Star Trek—twice, Jean-Luc Picard was seen to mutter, “Merde.”

This episode is the second and final appearance of Chester, the cat that Bilby gave to O’Brien in “Honor Among Thieves.”

Worf’s reference to Kelvans indicates that there are still Kelvans floating around the Trek universe after “By Any Other Name,” and that they are now in their true form rather than the humanoid form they adopted in that original series episode.

Walk with the Prophets: “Bollocks!” Not much to say about this one. It all feels very perfunctory. I can’t point to anything and say, “THIS IS BAD!” It doesn’t have the character extremes of “Valiant” or the vomit-inducing awfulness of “Profit and Lace” or the cartoonishness of “The Reckoning” or the complexity and intensity of “In the Pale Moonlight,” or the airy entertainment of “His Way,” it’s just a fairly standard plot that we’ve seen a thousand times before and twice since Tuesday.

Or, rather, twice since Tarzan. It’s pretty much the usual expose-the-savage-to-civilization storyline, except in this case it’s a character who has spent the last several years as the O’Briens’ cute kid.

And that’s a big part of the problem. Molly just isn’t a significant enough character for this to have any kind of emotional resonance. Molly’s biggest moments in Trek history have been to not recognize the kid-ified Keiko in TNG’s “Rascals,” to adorably call Kira her aunt in “Body Parts,” and to throw up on O’Brien after Lwaxana fed her candy in “Fascination.” Oh, and of course the entertaining circumstances of her birth in TNG’s “Disaster.”

But Molly isn’t really a character. We know the O’Briens care about her because they’re her parents, but we’re given no reason to be engaged with her as a character. The other parent-child relationships on modern Trek—the Crushers, the Siskos, Rom and Nog, even Worf and Alexander—are actually developed, the kids in question allowed to be actual people. Molly, though, is a moppet. Her sole function is to be adorable. Her (adorable) declaration that she wants to be an “exobologist” is the first time in the character’s existence that she’s even come close to expressing any kind of actual personality.

Which makes it really hard to give a good goddamn when she becomes Sheena, Queen of the 300-Year-Old Jungle. This part of the storyline is, at least, well constructed, as we see the process by which the O’Briens (very patiently) try to bring her home, as it were, and the fact that it doesn’t work is tragic, but inevitable.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Time's Orphan

Also, why didn’t someone tell them that the holosuite was a terrible idea? Giving her a taste of home and then literally turning it off is unbearably cruel—what the O’Briens do to Molly there is the exact same thing the Founders did to Odo in “Broken Link,” and that was the most severe punishment they could come up with for someone who committed their first-ever murder. And then they bring her through a crowded bar—it’s almost hard to believe it went horribly wrong…

I kind of wish they’d gone all the way with it, and had Molly actually murder the Tarkalean, because that would have made the ending much more intense. As it stands now, it’s just a minor inconvenience, and ooh, that Tarkalean is mean for pressing charges against the crazy woman who stabbed him with a broken bottle because it means a girl will be taken from her parents—which is kinda what happens when your daughter stabs someone with a broken bottle—and then O’Brien breaks her out of prison by committing assault on a deputy.

Yeah, I got to the end of this episode hoping for O’Brien to do some serious time here, because damn. That poor Tarkalean got stabbed with a broken bottle, and he gets no justice for that. But he’s not in the opening credits—he doesn’t even get a name!—so he doesn’t count. And anyhow, the person who stabbed him has been erased from existence, so it’s all okay!

I can see some lawyer having a field day with this one, tying Sisko, O’Brien, and Odo up in court for years to get justice for the Tarkalean—or heck, make it a class-action suit by all the people she assaulted in Quark’s!

Which, ultimately, would be more interesting than this relentlessly mediocre episode. It’s good to see Keiko and the kids back in theory, but in reality they haven’t been missed because the show hasn’t had the first clue what to do with any of them from jump, and this episode just shines a light on that.

 

Warp factor rating: 4


Keith R.A. DeCandido encourages everyone to pick up his latest work: Stargate SG-1/Atlantis: Far Horizons, which has his short story “Time Keeps on Slippin’,” Kobold Guide to Combat, which contains his essay “Gaming the Novel,” the Firefly: Echoes of War supplement Things Don’t Go Smooth, which has his adventure “Merciless,” and the Sleepy Hollow novel Children of the Revolution, reviewed on this very site.

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