Saturday, June 6, 2015

6-24. Time's Orphan.

The O'Briens' daughter loses ten years
to a time travel accident...















THE PLOT

Chief O'Brien celebrates his family's return to the station by taking them on a picnic to the planet Golana, a lush and peaceful world they enjoyed during Keiko's pregnancy. They are having a perfect day... Until young Molly (Hana Hatae), playing near a cavern, takes a fall - right through a mysterious device. Molly vanishes, leaving O'Brien to work desperately to figure out where she went.

The answer proves not to be so much "where" as "when." The device is a time portal, leading to the planet's distant past - before the Bajorans settled, when the only life was wildlife. O'Brien reactivates the device and uses a DNA sample of Molly to beam his daughter back. But he misses the correct time period, beaming back not the child he lost, but a feral young adult Molly (Michelle Krusiec) who has spent 10 years all alone in the planet's past.

This Molly behaves more like an animal than a human, barely interacting with the people around her. She keeps insisting that she wants to go home - to Golana. O'Brien tries to placate her with a holosuite recreation... But when it's time to leave, she goes into a violent rage - One that ends with her stabbing one of Quark's Tarkalean customers.

Leaving the O'Briens with the prospect of their already damaged daughter spending the rest of her life confined to an institution...


CHARACTERS

Capt. Sisko: As a father himself, he empathizes with O'Brien's pain. After Molly stabs the Tarkalean, Sisko is as gentle as he can be when he tells O'Brien that Molly will be sent to a facility for "evaluation." He knows as well as O'Brien does that this will turn into a life sentence - But he doesn't try to offer false hope, instead making clear that this is going to happen and that he has no alternative.

O'Brien: At this point, it should be funny just how often he ends up dealing with horrific emotional pain. But there's a reason the writers keep doing this: It works. O'Brien is so utterly relatable, and Colm Meaney so perfectly authentic, it becomes impossible not to empathize with him. No matter how many times O'Brien is dragged out for another round of mental torture, it continues to work - Something which gives a badly-needed boost to the mostly middling material found here.

Keiko: It would have been very easy for this episode to manufacture conflict by having Keiko blame her husband for not watching Molly or for failing to rescue her from her fall. Thankfully, writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle don't go this route. Keiko and O'Brien are supportive of each other throughout the episode. When O'Brien decides he must take desperate action to save Molly from a life in an institution, Keiko is a firm participant in the plan, refusing to allow him to take the risk on his own. Rosalind Chao, in her first episode in too long, remains a welcome screen presence, and she and Colm Meaney feel absolutely natural as a screen couple.

Worf/Dax: Worf and Dax take subplot duties by watching the O'Briens' young son, Yoshi. Worf determines that he must succeed at babysitting the child without Dax's help. At first, this seems like yet more Stupid Klingon Pride (TM). Then Worf explains himself, and both his words and Dax's reactions carry a ring of truth: "(Babysitting) is not important to me. It is important to you... You are judging me on my fitness to be a parent... I have proven myself to be a worthy husband to you, but you are not convinced I would be a good parent to your children." The entire subplot, including Worf's overly-urgent feelings of failure when Yoshi falls during playtime, feels authentic, and Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell are terrific in their scenes - which are just numerous enough to make an impression, without drowning out the main story.


THOUGHTS

Time's Orphan isn't a bad episode, but it is blatant filler with an exceedingly predictable story progression. From the moment child Molly is replaced by a wild-eyed adult, did anyone watching this believe for even an instant that the situation wouldn't be reset without consequence by the end? Knowing that I was watching a Reset Button Episode kept me from becoming truly invested in this from the start, since it was clear that nothing here was going to matter (or likely even be remembered) even a single episode later.

The weak plot is somewhat made up for by the strong performances of the regulars and of guest actress Michelle Krusiec. Krusiec does a commendable job with the damaged Molly, her feral qualities visible without being overplayed. The connection she slowly forms with her not-quite-forgotten parents is well played, and the moments of calm make the disturbed moments more effective by contrast.

Particularly strong is the scene in w hich Molly goes truly, dangerously wild when removed from the holosuites. Director Allan Kroeker does a great job of giving an immediacy to this sequence that is rarely seen in Trek action scenes. When she injures the Tarkalian standing between her and the exit, she stabs him with a broken bottle - an act of raw violence that carries the kind of punch sci-fi shootouts just can't equal. The devastation on O'Brien's face is vivid as he takes in what has happened and realizes that his daughter has just done something irrevocable.

Moments such as this elevate the episode in bursts... But there's just no getting around how predictable the whole thing is. It feels expendable - a sense only heightened by the knowledge that O'Brien will not have to endure a single consequence for the station regulations he breaks in the second half.

It's not a bad episode, and it is worth watching for the performances and the character material. But in an excellent season, this is a decidedly lesser episode.


Overall Rating: 5/10.


Previous Episode: Profit and Lace
Next Episode: The Sound of Her Voice


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