|Odo reveals his feelings to Kira.|
The Defiant, carrying virtually the entire station command staff, is at the end of a week-long reconnaissance mission in the Gamma Quadrant. They are about to head home when the ship picks up what may be life form readings beneath an energy barrier surrounding a planet. Dax assures Sisko that the ship can safely fly through the barrier with just a few shield modifications. Instead, the ship is badly damaged, and Kira is hit by a burst of energy that will kill her in a few weeks if she isn't returned to the station for proper treatment.
That's when the ship are contacted by the colony on the surface - a colony whose leader, Yedrin Dax (Gary Frank) informs them that all the people on the surface are descendants of the Defiant crew. When the ship completes its repairs and leaves orbit, the energy barrier will throw them back in time 200 years, with no hope of rescue. With this knowledge, Sisko and his crew could easily avoid that fate, returning to their lives and saving Kira's. But if they do so, then this successful colony of their direct descendants will not only have been killed - They will never have existed at all!
Capt. Sisko: "We're not actually considering this?" "No. We're not." I like that Sisko's immediate reaction to this dilemma is to refuse Yedrin. His explicit responsibility is to his crew, not to a colony that either will or will not exist, depending on his decision. He will not ask Kira to sacrifice herself for the colony, nor will he deny O'Brien the chance to return to his family. At the same time, Sisko isn't callous or unfeeling. He admits to Yedrin that he wishes he could help, and he allows his officers to give free voice to their views - Even ultimately allowing himself to be influenced by them.
Major Kira: Though hers is the life that will be lost if they go back in time and found the colony, she is the one most strongly in favor of doing so. This is in part because of her religious convictions. Part of her belief in the Prophets and in prophecy is that certain events are meant to be: "We're all given one destiny, one path." She also is a pragmatist, and when she does the math she comes to the same conclusion Yedrin does: That one life is a small sacrifice for 8,000 lives.
Odo: The "future" Odo is emotionally open with Kira. However, he is never seen interacting with anyone except Kira, nor he is talked about by the people in the colony. We see no evidence of friendships, relationships, or even what his role in the society might be - all of which leaves me suspecting that he is even more separate from the colony than "our" Odo is from Deep Space 9. His loss of Kira, not long after learning that she had broken up with Shakaar and was once again available (which dredged up all his old desires and fears), appears to have been the central fact of his past 200 years. Our Odo had nothing to do with the action this alternative version takes at the episode's end... but Kira's knowledge that he has the potential to do such a thing is far more likely to drive a wedge between them than the revelation of his feelings for her. I hope to see at least some strain in their interactions as a result.
Dax: Two Daxes feature in this episode: Jadzia and Yedrin, who will become the Dax symbiont's host after 200 years in the colony. Both Daxes feel responsible for the crew's situation, since Jadzia had pushed Sisko to take the ship through the energy barrier. But those 200 years make a big difference in perspective. Jadzia feels a direct loyalty to Sisko and the Defiant crew, and feels an urgency to save Kira. Yedren feels the guilt of the crew being stranded and of Kira's death, but he has spent 200 years watching the colony grow (probably most of that time, leading it), and his loyalties lie with his people. Refreshingly, Yedren does not try to force Sisko into repeating the accident. He relies mainly on persuasion, and his arguments are effective. Both Terry Farrell and Gary Frank give strong performances, making the similarities and differences between these two Daxes come to life.
O'Brien: After the original crash, he was the last to give up hope of a return home. Which makes sense: Not only does he have the strongest family ties (Jake is almost an adult; Worf only occasionally sees his son), he also has been separated from them before for a years-long period only to finally be returned. Our O'Brien works hard to reject the colony as valid. He avoids interaction with his descendants, because he needs to focus on returning home. Once he finally is forced to interact with some of his great-great grandchildren, and forced to see them as real people, he changes his mind in an instant and tells Sisko that the crew can't simply leave these people to die.
Children of Time is a character episode masquerading as a time anomaly show. The time travel elements make the story possible, but Rene Echevarria's teleplay keeps its focus squarely on the regulars, using the situation to explore their personalities and their reactions. Echevarria, arguably the show's best character writer, is able to give every regular some strong moments, and in every case the characters' reactions feel genuine.
The episode plays fair with its situation. Yedren produces a Technobabble solution to allow Sisko and his crew to return home while still saving the colony... but it's rapidly debunked as a fabrication, an attempt to trick Sisko into going back in time. From then on, the choice is clear: If the Defiant returns home, Kira lives and they return to their lives, but the colony will be wiped out; if the ship replicates the original crash, the colony will live, but Kira will die and none of them will ever see home again. Yedren doesn't make any further attempts to trick them, nor does he attempt force. Sisko and his crew are left to weight two terrible alternatives and decide on their own.
That this decision is taken away from them at the end is narratively necessary, but again it's not used as a cheat. When Odo reveals exactly what happened, it feels true to the story and to the characters, and reveals (not for the first time) that Odo has a legitimate dark side. It also brings a new perspective to the future Odo's apparent peace, which is revealed to be not wisdom but rather an extreme narcissism, elevating his own desires above everything else. Our Odo probably wouldn't make the same decision in the same circumstance... but we (and Kira... And Odo, for that matter) know now that such a decision is within him, and that may color our view of his future actions.
It's all splendidly shot, with director Allan Kroeker making the most of beautiful location shots and making them feel convincingly like part of the same geography as the colony sets. The pace is just right, slow enough to allow the character material to play out, but turning the plot in new directions at regular enough intervals to keep the situation fluid and alive.
Another great episode, in a season that's already had several great episodes.
Overall Rating: 10/10.
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Next Episode: Blaze of Glory
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