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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Hard Time (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

Hard Time is a fantastic (and vastly underrated) episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The episode tends to get overlooked in discussions about the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, perhaps owing to the high average quality of the season or the fact that it arrives in the middle of what is admittedly the season’s weakest run of episodes. However, in spite of all that, Hard Time is an exemplary piece of Deep Space Nine. It is certainly the best of the series’ “O’Brien must suffer” episodes, and a showcase for Star Trek veteran Colm Meaney. In its exploration of trauma and recovery, and cycles of violence, it taps into the heart of the show.

Not phased in the slightest...

Not phased in the slightest…

That said, Hard Time arrives at a point where Deep Space Nine is nudging closer and closer to serialisation. The show has begun to embrace long-form storytelling, as evidenced by the ripple effect of the changes to the status quo in The Way of the Warrior and the way that little plot threads weave through the season. The show has not yet reached the point at which it can structure six- or ten-episode arcs, but it is getting close. Deep Space Nine is clearly moving towards what is (for Star Trek at least) a fairly novel style of television storytelling.

As such, Hard Time is particularly striking for the fact that it is a purely episodic adventure. The episode puts Miles O’Brien through hell, having him struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder while trying to reintegrate into society. This is the kind of plot that feels more suited to a long-running mini-arc than Worf and Dax’s arguments about the relative merits of bladed weapons or Worf’s decision to move to the Defiant. Instead, O’Brien’s trauma is dealt with over the course of a single episode. Hard Time plays as a defence of the tradition television episode structure.

Growing the beard...

Growing the beard…

Indeed, one of the more common criticisms of Hard Time is the fact that the story is so self-contained. The argument is that O’Brien endures horrific abuse and works through (or begins to work through) his post-traumatic stress disorder over the course of a single forty-five minute episode, with no follow-up or acknowledgement in later episodes. Abigail Nussbaum contends that the series’ “greatest flaw was its failure to posit long-term consequence” for standalone episodes like Hard Time.

This is very much par for the course with Star Trek stories. Riker went through what amounts to a complete psychological breakdown in Frame of Mind, but was back at his post in Suspicions. Riker was reprimanded and sent to the brig at the end of Pegasus for his part in a cover-up and conspiracy, but everything was back to normal in Homeward. Still, at least Picard could pretend to punish Riker for his crimes. Janeway wasn’t even capable of sending Chakotay to the brig at the end of Manoeuvres, despite gross insubordination.

Birds of a feather...

Birds of a feather…

Star Trek has rarely been narratively adventurous. The franchise never really exploited its “shared universe” in any material way. Characters would occasionally crossover between shows and stray lines of dialogue would acknowledge a common continuity, but Star Trek very consciously felt like a bunch of different shows that happened to share branding rather than a single expansive continuity. (Even the Law & Order and CSI franchises, hardly experimental television once they reached their primes, were more actively invested in building a shared world.)

Deep Space Nine‘s experiments with serialisation were very much the exception rather than the rule, and even then the show was simply keeping place with a changing televisual landscape where shows like Babylon 5 and The X-Files had demonstrated that audiences could be trusted to remember what happened from one week to the next. When Star Trek: Enterprise embraced serialisation during its third season, it was very much behind the curve and acting out of desperation.

Nothing a little repair work cannot fix.

Nothing a little repair work cannot fix.

Watched from a modern perspective, that tends to date the show. Picard lived an entire alternate life in The Inner Light, but subsequent episodes never really delved into how those memories and experiences altered the character. Ronald D. Moore acknowledged as much in his assessment of the episode:

I’ve always felt that the experience in Inner Light would’ve been the most profound experience in Picard’s life and changed him irrevocably. However, that wasn’t our intention when we were creating the episode. We were after a good hour of TV, and the larger implications of how this would really screw somebody up didn’t hit home with us until later (that’s sometimes a danger in TV – you’re so focused on just getting the show produced every week that sometimes you suffer from the “can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome). We never intended the show to completely upend his character and force a radical change in the series, so we contented ourselves with a single follow-up in Lessons.

The Ressikan flute might have appeared in later stories like Lessons and Star Trek: Nemesis, but the life that Picard lived on Kataan was never explored or acknowledges. The Inner Light was immediately followed by Time’s Arrow, Part I, a time-travelling mystery in which Data’s head is found buried beneath San Francisco.

Washed out...

Washed out…

In some ways, Hard Time plays as the Deep Space Nine writing staff having a bit of fun at the expense of that aspect of The Inner Light. The Inner Light ends with Picard waking up from a dream in which he lived out an alternate life on a distant planet, returning to his life with nothing more than a quick reflection on what the entire experience meant to him. In contrast, Hard Time opens with O’Brien waking up from a similar dream. Of course, The Inner Light affords Picard a romantic and idealised alternate life. Hard Time puts O’Brien through hell.

As such, Hard Time could be seen as an attempt to play out the consequences of a story like The Inner Light. While the stories are enabled by similar science-fiction concepts, there is a marked difference in how the two episodes chose to employ them. The Inner Light focuses on the dream life of itself, the alternate world in which Picard settles down on a planet and raises a family. Hard Time takes that basic idea and focuses on the consequences. If The Inner Light is about the illusion, Hard Time is about what it must be like to wake up from that illusion.

Signs and symbols...

Signs and symbols…

In a way, this plays to the thematic differences between Deep Space Nine and the other Star Trek shows. The other Star Trek shows are about boldly going to new worlds and new civilisations. There are stories that deal with consequences and legacy, but they are very much the exception rather than the rule. The bulk of Star Trek episodes begin with the crew arriving somewhere or encountering something/someone, and they end with the crew leaving or parting ways with that something/someone.

In contrast, Deep Space Nine is a show built around the idea of consequences. Sisko is assigned to oversee the recovery of Bajor, a planet just emerging from a horrific occupation at the hands of the Cardassians. Sisko and his crew cannot leave at the end of the episode, regardless of what the studio might have wanted. Instead, the crew have to make do with what they have, and find a way to build a functioning community out of the resources available. The fourth season really emphasises this, with the recurring suggestion of arcs and cycles.

"Think of it like target practice..."

“Think of it like target practice…”

So, on a very basic level, Hard Time is about consequences. It is about the fact that trauma does not magically go away once a horrific ordeal is over. O’Brien might only have been unconscious for hours, and may not have actually lived through the experience, but that does not mean everything goes back to normal once he wakes up. O’Brien does not return from Argratha and immediately get back to work so that the mirror universe shenanigans of Shattered Mirror can kick into gear.

(Indeed, Hard Time even has the characters acknowledge the storytelling tools that have allowed the franchise to avoid long-term consequences in the past. “The only way I could rid him of the memories would be to wipe his entire memory clean, and clearly that isn’t an option,” reflects Bashir, acknowledging the use of memory wipes that served as a convenient “get out of jail free” clause at the end of episodes like Pen Pals and Sons of Mogh. In acknowledging (and cutting off) that short cut, Hard Time signals that this is a different type of story.)

Happy families...

Happy families…

As a matter of fact, the original pitch for Hard Time would have emphasised this idea of consequences even further. The original story was sold as a sequel to Lower Decks, a seventh season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The narrative would have followed the character of Sito Jaxa, who was presumed dead at the end of that Next Generation story. The revelation would have been that Jaxa had been captured by the Cardassians and had been held in a Cardassian prison for years. Hard Time would have followed her reintegration.

If Hard Time is positioned as a companion piece to The Inner Light, rendering it as an explicit follow-up would have cemented the core themes of trauma and survival. In fact, it would have reinforced the differences between The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, by allowing Deep Space Nine to set a story dealing with the consequences of a Next Generation episode. It certainly would have played into the efforts to distinguish Deep Space Nine from The Next Generation running through the third and fourth seasons. (Defiant comes to mind.)

"Everytime I send O'Brien off the station, I end up with a headache THIS big."

“Everytime I send O’Brien off the station, I end up with a headache THIS big.”

Ultimately, Hard Time moved quite far away from that original pitch, as The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion relates:

Wolfe played with the story for a while. No solid motivating incident for Sito’s condition had been established, so Wolfe settled on the idea that Sito had killed her cellmate, a person to whom she’d been very close. The story was never produced, but it resurfaced in Wolfe’s mind as he thought about the O’Brien episode. “I took the end of the Sito story and threw away the rest,” Wolfe says. “And I incorporated that ending into Hard Time.”

It probably makes sense to change the emphasis of the story to focus on a regular character rather than build it around a one-time guest star, in keeping with Michael Piller’s storytelling philosophy.

"Y'know, this would be a whole lot easier if we had a full-time counsellor."

“Y’know, this would be a whole lot easier if we had a full-time counsellor.”

This rationale also explains why Bashir plays a much larger role in reintegrating O’Brien into the crew than Keiko does. In theory, Miles’ strongest relationship to his life before the trauma should be Keiko. Keiko should know Miles better than anybody, and should be the one who gets him to open up. Instead, Keiko spends most of Hard Time as a passive observer rather than an active participant, leaving Bashir to intervene at the climax of the story. While this might not make the most storytelling sense, Alexander Siddig is a series regular and Rosalind Chao is not.

Hard Time is a powerful piece of television. Colm Meaney is fantastic, grounding the story in a very human character arc. These “O’Brien must suffer” episodes generally work because O’Brien is the franchise’s “everyman” character; O’Brien seems real in a way that characters like Bashir or Riker are not. A lot of that is down to Meaney’s performance choices as O’Brien. While most Star Trek regulars tend to adopt a more grandstanding and theatrical style, Meaney anchors O’Brien in a more low key naturalism.

Old friends.

Old friends.

There are subtle elements of Hard Time that do suggest long-term continuity of character. Much like Hippocratic Oath, there is a sense that O’Brien is still working through his own traumatic experiences as a soldier during the Cardassian War and is sublimating into his current situation. In Hippocratic Oath, it was suggested that O’Brien was so resentful and suspicious of the Jem’Hadar because he recognised himself in them; the implication seemed to be that O’Brien was projecting his own guilt on to an entire race.

There is an element of that to Hard Time. O’Brien has difficulty processing what happened on Argratha, but not out of a sense of injustice or frustration. Although the episode makes it clear that O’Brien was innocent of espionage, his anger is not righteous or vindictive. In building off his characterisation in The Wounded, O’Brien does not hate the Argrathi for what they did to him, even if such hatred would be entirely reasonable and justified. Instead, O’Brien focuses his hatred and contempt inwards.

Just looking for a sympathetic ear...

Just looking for a sympathetic ear…

When Bashir finds O’Brien in the cargo bay, with a phaser under his chin, O’Brien makes it clear that his suicidal thoughts come from internalised self-loathing. “I’m not doing this for me,” O’Brien assures Bashir. “I’m doing this to protect Keiko, and Molly and everyone else on the station.” When Bashir asks what O’Brien could possibly being trying to protect them from, O’Brien simply responds, “From me. I’m not the man I used to be. I’m dangerous.” In some respects, it feels like the same self-loathing that bubbles through O’Brien’s experience as a soldier.

O’Brien does not trust himself. Instead, he holds himself entirely accountable. Hard Time is decidedly ambiguous at whether that sense of responsibility is fair. After all, it seems unreasonable for O’Brien to hold himself to account for actions committed as part of some implanted memories, things that he (in a very literal sense) did not do. At the same time, Bashir suggests that the memories were not scripted. The memories are classified as “interactive.” Bashir explains, “He made choices and decisions that affected the outcome.”

Lines (and curves) in the sand...

Lines (and curves) in the sand…

O’Brien finds himself living with the possibility that he could be a cold-blooded killer. O’Brien has killed before. Bashir explicitly mentions Setlik III, which was presented as a formative trauma for O’Brien back in The Wounded. In the context of Hippocratic Oath and Hard Time, it seems reasonable to suggest that O’Brien has struggled with the blurred line between soldier and killer. If he could kill in the context of a war, could he kill in peace time? Theoretically, there is a world of difference between the extremes. But Hard Time is a theoretical exercise.

In some respects, Hard Time is part of a larger character arc that largely resolves with Empok Nor. Stories like Hippocratic Oath and Hard Time explain why O’Brien places so much emphasis on being an engineer rather than a soldier in confronting the deranged version of Garak. O’Brien’s larger character arc is one of living with (and working through) trauma, a reminder that it does not happen overnight. Hard Time just builds an episode around that thread, offering a reflection of the arc that bubbles through stories like The Wounded and Cardassians.

"Don't worry, Chief. It was all a dream. In the real world, I'm going to be carrying your baby soon."

“Don’t worry, Chief. It was all a dream. In the real world, I’m going to be carrying your baby soon.”

At the same time, it seems reasonable to acknowledge that devoting a single episode (even a whole episode) to exploring trauma hints at some of the limits of episodic storytelling. Although Hard Time spends forty-five minutes explaining to the audience that O’Brien’s memories of his prison term have changed him, the following sixty-three hours and forty-five minutes of Deep Space Nine do little to support that assumption. O’Brien might not be restored back to his factory settings at the end of the episode, but he is by the start of the next one.

There is a tendency treat this as an issue, particularly when dealing with a subject like post-traumatic stress disorder. After all, post-traumatic stress disorder is not something that is very intense for a week before going away and never being mentioned again. Those who lived with that sort of trauma understand that it is always there; if it does fade, it fades over months and years rather than days and weeks. There is a credible argument to be made that O’Brien’s trauma is too big to handle within the space of a single episode.

"Who's scruffy looking?"

“Who’s scruffy looking?”

Hard Time certainly demonstrates the limits of serialisation on Deep Space Nine. Some events have long-term consequences, while others do not. While the show has gotten better at threading plot developments through multiple episodes, it is not as comfortable handling character development in that sort of manner. This is apparent even earlier in the fourth season, with the damage to Bashir and O’Brien friendship in Hippocratic Oath resolved off-screen so they could go back to playing in the holodeck.

(There are a number of other such character fumbles over the course of the show’s seven-year run. The writers seem to struggle with how best to reconcile Kira and Odo following the latter’s betrayal in Behind the Lines, ultimately deciding to bury the resolution off-screen in You Are Cordially Invited… Similarly, the romantic pairing of Bashir and Dax seems to come out of nowhere over the course of the final ten episodes of the show, existing largely to pair off two members of the regular cast who would otherwise remain relatively inert at the end of the series.)

They're a bit squeezed for water at the moment.

They’re a bit squeezed for water at the moment.

While some of this criticism is fair and reasonable, it does seem overly prescriptive in terms of dictating how stories are told. Episodic televisual storytelling is very much its own artform, with its own internal rules and expectations. In many respects, standalone episodes of those sorts of episodic shows are best treated as a series of forty-five minute movies with a fixed cast. They tackle one big idea or one big story at a time. Using that logic, it would be churlish to argue that a film cannot explore post-traumatic stress disorder because the idea is too big for a two-hour story.

It is perfectly reasonable to argue that narratives about post-traumatic stress disorder might be better suited to a serialised television show or miniseries. Certainly, one of the advantages of the modern television revolution is that television is no longer treated as inherently inferior to film; it is now possible to accept that film and television lend themselves to different sorts of storytelling, and so some stories might be suited better to one medium than the other. This is so obvious that it should always have been self-evident, but it appears that this was not the case.

"How come Julian never has to put up with any of this?"

“How come Julian never has to put up with any of this?”

Would Hard Time have worked better as a recurring thread running through the second half of the fourth season than it did as a single episode of television? Maybe. There is no way to know for sure. Certainly, the series’ track record of handling important character beats across multiple episodes leaves a lot to be desired. While Deep Space Nine is certainly a lot better at serialisation than its sibling shows, there is little to suggest that it could have successfully told the story in that manner, even if it wanted to.

While there is no way to know how Hard Time might have worked as a recurring arc, it works spectacularly as a standalone story. In fact, Hard Time makes a compelling argument for traditional episodic storytelling, the kind of television narratives that have largely been eroded in recent years. The success of shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and The Wire have seen television adopting an increasingly novelistic approach to storytelling, with critics like Alan Sepinwall arguing that the episode has become underrated as a unit of story.

You know, we probably need to have a conversation about phaser control.

You know, we probably need to have a conversation about phaser control.

This is, of course, something of an over-simplification. The episode is still an important building block for how television is produced and consumed. It is entirely possible to point to individual episodes of The Sopranos and Breaking Bad as stellar examples of the form. Although obviously grounded in the larger stories unfolding around them, episodes like Pine Barrens and The Fly are reasonably self-contained narrative units. However, it seems reasonable to concede that how audiences and producers view television storytelling has changed somewhat.

There are lots of reasons for this shift. A lot of them are driven by technology. The turn of the millennium changed the technology through which media was consumed. Although the Star Trek franchise had always maintained a presence in home media, it was very hard to sell television series on VHS; the cassette tapes were bulky and relatively expensive, making it harder to convince audiences to buy them. As a result, consumption was usual dictated by network and syndication scheduling. At the start of the twenty-first century, that changed.

"What do you mean I look like Hagrid? Wait... did you say haggered or Hagrid?"

“What do you mean I look like Hagrid? Wait… did you say haggered or Hagrid?”

DVD made it possible to own an entire season of television at a reasonable price in a tidy box. TiVo allowed viewers to watch shows on their own schedules, even building up runs of episodes to binge. Then streaming changed everything. As Todd Van Der Werff argues, the Netflix does not focus on producing episodes:

Netflix fundamentally doesn’t think about TV in terms of those episodes. It thinks about them in terms of seasons, and it encourages its creators to do so as well. I caught up with Ted Sarandos, the company’s chief content officer, to ask him about this very thing, and he said the company increasingly thinks of its series not in terms of episodes but in terms of shows.

This is quite clear in terms of the television shows released by Netflix. Shows as diverse as Jessica Jones, House of Cards, Daredevil and Bloodline often struggle when it comes to pacing and plotting their individual instalments; however, each season of those shows tells a very clear story.

"Daddy's home. It'll be like that Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell movie, but less traumatic."

“Daddy’s home. It’ll be like that Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell movie, but less traumatic.”

It is not just television production that has changed in the intervening years. How audiences watch television has also changed, and with it the expectations of how that television should be prepared. As Ryan McGee reflects:

HBO isn’t solely to blame for this trend. It’s been accelerated not by internal mandate, but by viewer consumption. It’s easy to blur the line between “episode” and “installment” if you’re blowing through an entire season of Breaking Bad over a single weekend. When doing this, thinking about how a certain episode works on its own becomes less relevant. Simply getting through the virtual stack of content becomes paramount, with the next episode literally moments away from appearing on your screen. Plowing through a single season in two or three sittings may feel thrilling, but it’s also shifted the importance of a single episode in terms of the overall experience.

The result is that older television is beginning to feel consciously dated because it gets left behind by shifts in the storytelling techniques favoured by audiences and employed by producers.

Spanner in the works...

Spanner in the works…

Rewatching Deep Space Nine is an interesting experience, positioned two decades after the show’s original broadcast. There is a lot of the show that feels ahead of the curve, whether by accident or by design. Homefront and Paradise Lost resonate more powerfully in the modern era than they did on original broadcast. The kind of serialised storytelling the kicks into gear with A Time to Stand looks a lot more modern than anything that happened on Star Trek: Voyager.

At the same time, there are also certain elements that do serve to date the show. Deep Space Nine is a product of the nineties, despite the care taken to conceal that fact. Changeling infiltration might resonate with contemporary anxieties about global terrorism, but the show largely brushes it aside to focus on a much more conventional war arc. Even at the height of the Dominion War, there is a firm delineation between episodes that advance the central plot and those that do not. Even In the Pale Moonlight only has a mid-level impact on the show going forward.

"This is a really ineffective shaving mechanism."

“This is a really ineffective shaving mechanism.”

However, that is not to say that this datedness is a bad thing. Certainly, a work of art is not diminished by the fact that it is rooted in the aesthetic of a particular time. To pick an extreme example, Casablanca is not undercut by the fact that it was shot in black-and-white, despite what Ted Turner might think. The Godfather was the result of a very unique moment in Hollywood history, the product of environment that had only just come into existence and would not exist for long afterwards. That does not make it any less important or vital.

Art resonates beyond the circumstances of its production. Citizen Kane was written about a very particular individual, but it resonates beyond Orson Welles’ fascination with William Randolph Hearst. All the President’s Men was a timely look at the Watergate investigation, but its power extends beyond the early seventies political scene. Even Invasion of the Body Snatchers played against the very specific backdrop of McCarthyism and the Red Scare in Hollywood, but it retains a potency in this day and age.

"Still, at least we have a skylight..."

“Still, at least we have a skylight…”

Part of that is due to timeless themes, but part of that is simply down to the fact that well-crafted works of art remain well-crafted even after times change. More than that, it is tempting to assume that all developments represent progress, that evolution is a single unified line charting a course that leads from the beginning of time into the future. Episodes like Genesis and Threshold would suggest that the Star Trek franchise adheres to this philosophy at least when it comes to the biological process of evolution.

There are certainly aspects of modern entertainment that represent clear and meaningful progress over what came before. Film and television may not be hugely diverse industries today, but they are much more diverse than they were ten or twenty years ago. Broadly speaking, storytellers have a great deal more freedom in deciding the stories that they want to tell and how they want to tell them. Although the industries remain conservative in nature, there is arguably less gate-keeping going on. Independent cinema thrives through kickstarting and philanthropy.

"I guess you could say you had a close shave with the Agrathi justice system."

“I guess you could say you had a close shave with the Agrathi justice system.”

However, while this might be the case, this does not mean that the larger shift away from the individual television episode should be assumed to represent progress for the medium. The current fascination with serialised drama and a model of production and consumption of whole seasons rather than individual episodes does not make old-school episodic storytelling obsolete or irrelevant. Hard Time is not inherently weaker for being told as a single self-contained episode, even if contemporary sensibilities would argue that is the case.

Hard Time is a reminder that Deep Space Nine is still rather conventional in its storytelling. And that this might not be such a bad thing.

15 Responses

  1. I agree that this episode is highly underrated, but it is ties in quality with Whispers, the original torture O’brien episode, in my opinion.
    I also think that since this whole episode deals with the consequences, then it is alright they don’t bring it up again. I think it could have just felt redundant.

    • Yep, that’s my take on it precisely. But I think it’s interesting to look at how much television storytelling and expectations have changed in just twenty odd years.

    • I disagree that Whispers is DS9’s first “O’Brien must suffer” episode. Surely that was S1’s The Storyteller, even though it was the show’s worst attempt at it.

      • I suppose, but I think that The Storyteller is far more whimsical in the suffering it inflicts upon O’Brien. He probably looks back on the episode and chuckles.

      • I agree with that Darren. Where The Storyteller differs is its played for laughs, while all the subsequent “O’Brien must suffer” episodes do not.

  2. Times like this, i wish the TOS phasers would make a comeback. Colm’s acting is slightly undermined by the sight of him holding an electric shaver under his chin.

    • Ha! But not necessarily unfair.

    • That brought a smile to my face. I remember reading somewhere about the pros and cons of Star Trek vs TNG, where Kirk brandished a phaser that looked like a weapon, but Picard’s phasers were likened to a Remington lady shaver.

  3. It might have been nice if the events of Hard Time had been addressed in the future sometime, like Picard’s assimilation or Worf’s discommendation(s). But like Geordi in The Mind’s Eye, it never comes up again and each experience should have far-reaching consequences for that character. But like Rules of Engagement, Hard Time hits the reset button.

    The Inner Light is the one example of memory implantation as a more benign process, compared to Hard Time or Memorial. In fact, I would say Hard Time has more in common with Memorial then Ex Post Facto. Half the Voyager crew are traumatised by believing they fought in a war that never happened for them. And that was all supposedly for a good cause.

    Rosalind Chao is underused here because it’s another example of the studio at a loss with what to do with her. She should have been allowed to aid in O’Brien’s recovery rather then just standing around reacting to how the Argratha have affected him. But in the end it’s Bashir because the writers would rather pair them together than O’Brien with Keiko.

    In an interesting bit of trivia, Margot Rose, who played Picard’s wife in The Inner Light also appears here as O’Brien’s jailer. Make of that what you will! O’Brien is an Everyman, but he’s also DS9’s handyman. And I can’t believe Starfleet is still sending Runabouts to the Gamma Quadrant. What about the Defiant and the constant threat of the Dominion? That reminds me of S3 struggling to work the show around it.

    • Yep. The show never seemed entirely consistent in its portrayal of the Gamma Quadrant in S3/S4. No wonder the Dominion were annoyed at Starfleet. If they kept sending ships into the Neutral Zone, the Romulans would have been ticked off.

      • That’s what Bashir said in a line cut from In the Pale Moonlight, that the Romulans would never have tolerated Starfleet violating the Neutral Zone back in the old days, but they make allowances for the Dominion if it means giving the Federation a bloody nose.

      • I think Dax makes a similar point “in character” as the Romulan, as well.

      • She does, Darren.

  4. I think O’Brien shouldn’t have been in Shattered Mirror at all and just had Colm Meaney play Smiley instead. The MIrror Universe could have come in handy there where O’Brien was absent for an episode because he was still recovering from the events of Hard Time.

    • Ha! I thought something similar about Through the Looking Glass. I’d rather the episode didn’t feature Rene Auberjonois at all, so you could imagine that it all happened between Odo and Garak’s trip to Cardassia at the end of Improbable Cause and the appearance of the Romulan fleet in The Die is Cast, preserving the production order. It would also be cool to have had a two-parter spaced out by a throwaway episode in between.

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