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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Children of Time (Review)

Time is the fire in which we burn.

Children of Time comes towards the end of the franchise’s thirtieth anniversary season. By all accounts, the thirtieth anniversary season had been a resounding success. Star Trek: First Contact managed to please audiences and critics with a journey back to the beginning of the Star Trek universe. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine offered a crowd-pleasing homage to The Trouble With Tribbles in Trials and Tribble-ations. Even Star Trek: Voyager got in on the act with Flashback, Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II.

More than that, the franchise was thriving by just about any measure. Three casts were active simultaneously; two casts on television and one in cinemas. The thirtieth anniversary had garnered incredible media attention and had helped to remind audiences that the franchise was still chugging along a decade after its resurrection. To many observers, it appeared that the Star Trek had been resurrected. Against all odds, the television show that had been cancelled by NBC after only three seasons seemed to have been granted a form of immortality.

Walking into the sunset.

Walking into the sunset.

However, things were not as rosy behind the scenes. In fact, the franchise had been underperforming since the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The ratings would not become a real problem until the launch of Star Trek: Enterprise, but there were early signs that the franchise was in decline. Both Deep Space Nine and Voyager underwent cast revisions in their fourth seasons to try to solidify the ratings. Deep Space Nine got to keep its existing cast and add one new face, while Voyager had to fire one cast member to make room for the newest player.

Children of Time feels very much like a meditation and contemplation upon the theme of legacy, asking the characters on Deep Space Nine to wonder what they might leave behind.

Shocking.

Shocking.

From the vantage point of the franchise’s thirtieth anniversary, Star Trek seemed invincible. After all, that cancelled three-season science-fiction oddity had somehow become the cornerstone of a multimedia empire. Given that the past five seasons of television had seen ten seasons of Star Trek broadcast, it seemed strange to remember that there had been a period of over a decade-and-a-half when Star Trek had been absent from prime-time television. The franchise was a cultural juggernaut and a living organism, more than could be said of Star Wars or Doctor Who.

With all of that in mind, it is strange to think that the franchise’s fortieth and fiftieth anniversaries would pass with little in the way of celebration. The fortieth anniversary came shortly after the end of Enterprise, following the first television season since 1987 without a single new Star Trek episode broadcast. The fiftieth was marked with the release of Star Trek Beyond and with the promise of Star Trek: Discovery, both of which were overshadowed by certain controversies; from disappointing box office returns to the departures of key creative personnel.

Baby on board.

Baby on board.

However, even at this moment of celebration, there were faint signs of the trouble yet to come. Most obviously, ratings were in decline. As Greg Fuller would note in his assessement of the franchise’s ratings health at the end of the nineties, there were lots of possible reasons for this:

When TNG ended, this seven year downward spiral began, but not because Trek as a whole was getting worse or less-liked, but because each new show was starting in a crowded, competitive environment with many similar shows. As of June, there were 7 networks, dozens of first-run syndicated shows, and over a hundred cable and premium channels. Where TNG had to deal with maybe a dozen competitors, DS9 and Voyager contend with around 50 (counting the premiums) and a sci-fi market that’s close to being oversaturated.

Where TNG was able to grow some roots before the major onslaught of competition began, DS9 and Voyager have grown up in an environment very different from the one TNG grew up in. DS9 had to fight for prime-time slots and Voyager was only seen by as many people as UPN could reach. With Trek’s quick fade from the spotlight after the end of TNG, Trek swiftly lost its casual viewership and mainstream support. The number of people viewing Trek has shrunk back to what one would expect from a wildly successful cult TV show. Yes, that number is smaller than it once was, but for what Star Trek is, it’s still doing quite well.

Of course, there were also some issues related to the shows themselves. Deep Space Nine was consciously an alternative and subversive Star Trek show, with Ira Behr fronting the Rolling Stones to Michael Piller’s Beatles. It was never going to be a smash hit. Voyager was bedeviled by problems both internal and external.

Burn with me.

Burn with me.

These ratings issue would not become terminal for quite some time. Deep Space Nine and Voyager were still allowed to complete their full seven-season runs. It was not until the end of Voyager and the launch of Enterprise that these problems built to critical mass. Enterprise would be the only Star Trek show of the Rick Berman era not to broadcast a full seven seasons. Indeed, the recurring Temporal Cold War plot thread running across the four seasons of Enterprise might be seen as the production team engaging with the threat posed to the franchise’s future.

Still, even at the franchise’s cultural peak, the production teams were very aware of these threats. At the start of Deep Space Nine‘s third season, the cast and crew found themselves fronting questions about whether their show could legitimately take the place of the recently retired Next Generation. Although The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II were clearly intended as a second pilot, Deep Space Nine refused to turn itself into a pale imitation of its more popular elder sibling.

Wishing well.

Wishing well.

Deep Space Nine aired in syndication, and was free of the network meddling that would cause so much trouble on Voyager. However, the studio were understandably anxious about its difficulty converting the audience that had fallen in love with The Next Generation. At the end of the third season, at the behest of the network, the production team abandoned a planned cliffhanger to allow for a light retooling. The Adversary was written at short notice to resolve the season tidily.

The fourth season opened with The Way of the Warrior, an even more explicit retool of the show to introduce a beloved character from The Next Generation and a new focus upon the iconic Klingons. However, the production team working on Deep Space Nine were still allowed to chart their own course and to tell the stories that they wanted to tell. Still, the fact that such changes came from the studio suggests a lingering anxiety lurking in the background even at a point where the Star Trek franchise is still considered a cultural behemoth.

Mogh money, Mogh problems.

Mogh money, Mogh problems.

Children of Time is an episode that feels very much in touch with the question of how Deep Space Nine will be remembered. It is an episode in which a freak accident invites the crew of the Defiant to meet their descendents settled upon a remote planet in the Gamma Quadrant. Odo is still around, his abilities having evolved to the point where he can more convincingly mimick the ageing process. The Dax symbiote found a new host in Yedrin. Worf has inspired a movement in the form of part-Klingons and Klingon cosplayers calling themselves “the Sons of Mogh.”

To be fair, this is far from the only episode of Star Trek to invite the audience to examine a possible future for the cast and crew. The Next Generation did something similar in episodes like Future Imperfect and the series finale All Good Things… Similarly, Voyager would play with the idea in stories like Before and After, Timeless, Shattered and Endgame. Perhaps most poignently, Enterprise would complate futures that it would never see in Twilight, , In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I, In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II and These Are The Voyages…

Power plant.

Power plant.

On The Next Generation and Voyager, stories looking to the future tend to fixate upon the individual crew. All Good Things… is about imagining where the crew of the Enterprise might end up years after their mission comes to an end. Before and After looks at Kes raising a family on Voyager among the regular crew. Even Endgame finds a future version of Janeway acting as a maternal figure to the members of her crew that were left behind. These episodes feel quite narrow in their perspective, more rooted in the immediacy of the primary cast.

In contrast, Children of Time looks beyond that. In some ways, it even foreshadows the end of the series in What You Leave Behind both in suggesting a possible interpretation of the title as a meditation on legacy more than the immediate future and in its insistence that the dissolution of the primary cast is an inevitability that will likely happen sooner rather than later. However, Children of Time suggests that the series is not diminished by this. as Worf argues, “It is a great honour to know that my legacy has thrived on your world for so long.”

Klingon to their values.

Klingon to their values.

There is something very evocative in this future as suggested by Children of Time. Most obviously, the episode looks beyond the individual crew members. Like Deep Space Nine itself, the script pushes past the idea of the leading ensemble and explores the idea of a community and a legacy beyond the nine members of the primary cast. Assuming that all of these characters are allowed a satisfying narrative arc in the context of the show, what happens afterwards? The question is not what happens to the crew, but rather what they leave behind them?

This is something of a loaded question, and Children of Time seems like the right place for the production team to broach the issue. By this point in the fifth season, Deep Space Nine had pushed itself further than any other Star Trek show. The series demonstrated a breathless ambition and a bold experimental streak that took the larger Star Trek franchise outside its comfort zone. Serialisation was already creeping in around the edges of the series, with long-running story threads and character arcs playing out in ways they never could have on The Next Generation.

Disagreements come to a head.

Disagreements come to a head.

However, the biggest change was lurking just over the horizon. At the end of the fifth season, A Call to Arms would change the Star Trek franchise forever. Most immediately, it would kickstart a six-episode story arc in which the crew would be separated and the eponymous space station would be surrendered to the series’ primary antagonists. Even beyond that, Deep Space Nine was about to tell the first extended Star Trek war story. The Dominion War would rage across the final two seasons of the show, a storytelling decision of breathtaking ambition

The Dominion War would come to dominate the legacy and history of Deep Space Nine. It would become the stock point of contention for any debate about the merits or failings of Deep Space Nine. It would be cited as the best example of Deep Space Nine‘s willingness to push the franchise in bold new directions, but also as the strongest evidence that Deep Space Nine was not really a Star Trek show after all. Even before the episode was written and broadcast, the production team had to understand that it would change everything.

Valley forge.

Valley forge.

With the second half of the fifth season marching inevitability towards that finale, Children of Time seems ideally positioned as a reflection on what the legacy of Deep Space Nine might be. After all, the production team were under no illusions. They understood that Deep Space Nine would have a controversial legacy. As Ronald D. Moore noted:

Yah we kind of prided ourselves on being the bastard stepchildren of the Trek franchise. We were the only one that truly different. Every other series was essentially about a starship boldly going somewhere, and we weren’t. We were proud of that. And we were kind of proud we didn’t get the same publicity and that we were the forgotten ones. It was something we sort of wore as a badge of honor amongst the writers.

According to Chase Masterson, Ira Steven Behr came to realise during the fifth season that Deep Space Nine would be a show that lived or died in legacy rather than in its own cultural moment. This certainly seems to have been the case. It seems fair to argue that Deep Space Nine has aged much better than Voyager or Enterprise.

"So, did you see Battlestar Galactica last night? We totally did that Occupation arc first."

“So, did you see Battlestar Galactica last night? We totally did that Occupation arc first.”

This is the future that Children of Time suggests for Deep Space Nine. If the episode is read literally, there are a lot of lingering questions about the future presented to the audience. The actual mechanics of the episode seem highly questionable, with a crew of about fifty (mostly human) characters somehow spawning a planet of eight thousand people in “several scattered settlements” of two hundred years and only “three generations.” It seems that the crew got pretty busy pretty quickly.

These numbers make more sense if considered as a metaphor for diffusion and expansion. Deep Space Nine is a television series that has arguably had a wide and diverse impact upon the television landscape in a number of key ways. Most obviously, it was a relatively early adopter of serialisation, and so feels much more in step with contemporary drama. There is also the connection that Deep Space Nine had to other influential series like the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, which makes it an ancestor of a lot of twenty-first century science-fiction.

Yed another Dax.

Yed another Dax.

Even in terms of the Star Trek franchise, Deep Space Nine has proven itself a subtle but key influence on various facets of the franchise. Star Trek Into Darkness adopted the concept of Section 31, for example. Bryan Fuller was tasked with creating Discovery, and cites Deep Space Nine as his favourite show. In The Fifty-Year Mission, Bryan Fuller even cites Ira Steven Behr as a major influence on his work with other properties:

We have now as television viewers grown so far away from it that it’s fascinating to look back and see the different philosophies of the time of what people perceived audiences would or would not reject in terms of what they were willing to sit down and watch. That’s something that Deep Space Nine and Ira Behr, in particular, would just say, “No, that’s not what we’re doing. If you don’t like it then you can get rid of me, but this is what we’re doing.” He really stood up for the show and fought for the show. I learned a lot of lessons from Ira in terms of how I approach a show and in terms of what I am willing to fight for – and I’m willing to fight for a lot.

For a series that faced such opposition internally and externally during its production life cycle, that is a remarkable endorsement and a fine demonstration of just how influential Deep Space Nine would become. These are the ideas with which Children of Time tends to grapple, and it very much explains how the production team see the future of Deep Space Nine.

"Okay, so maybe I wasn't destined to become my own great-grandfather..."

“Okay, so maybe I wasn’t destined to become my own great-grandfather…”

Children of Time suggests that time is a finite thing, and that moments are fleeting. Things cannot remain in equilibrium forever, and much of what people take for granted is subject to change with little notice or provocation. Everything comes to an end. There is a very morbid streak running through Children of Time, most notably with the suggestion that Kira Nerys is fated to die in the crash and in the question of whether the crew of the Defiant would be willing to sacrifice eight thousand potential lives so that they might return home.

Even before grappling with these big ethical questions, Children of Time stresses how precious time actually is. Upon visiting the settlements, the crew have little over a day to spend with their descendents. Considering the enormity of their decision and the size of the settlement, that is very little time. Still, there are external factors. “According to the logs I retrieved from the wreckage,” Yedrin Dax states, “the Defiant encountered the anomaly thirty nine hours after it arrived in orbit.” Worf acknowledges, “If your plan is to work, we must do the same.”

Never too far afield.

Never too far afield.

When the Defiant crew initially decide to return home and condemn the settlers to non-existence, time becomes even more precious. As the descendents race against time to seed their farmland before the sun sets, Worf summons the Sons of Mogh to render assistance. He frames it as a glorious battle against an uncompromising enemy. “They are attempting to plant their fields before the sun sets,” he states. “Time is their enemy. We should help them defeat it.”

It is worth contrasting this sense of the future as a highly volatile and changeable and transient concept with the more stable depictions of the future on Voyager. The third season of Voyager imagines the future as a highly structured framework that is clearly extrapolated from the status quo, with episodes like Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II suggesting a twenty-ninth century where little has truly changed. Even episodes like Before and After and Shattered cannot imagine a time where life on Voyager has radically and irrevocably changed.

Obligatory Quark cameo!

Obligatory Quark cameo!

Voyager‘s approach to the future is very much in keeping with Francis Fukuyama’s theory of the end of history. This theory was very popular in the nineties, following the end of the Cold War. Based on the notion that western liberal democracy had emerged triumphant from millennia of cultural and political conflicts, this theory proposed that the United States would enjoy a perputual and everlasting “now” where nothing would ever truly or fundamentally change. It goes without saying that the twenty-first century has rendered this theory a lot less convincing.

Deep Space Nine does not buy into that theory of history. Instead, Deep Space Nine seems to insist that change and development are a natural and unavoidably part of existence. Everything is transitory, but that does not diminish or reduce it. After all, Deep Space Nine is the only series to end by completely and uttering scattering its main cast, rendering the seven-season run as another fleeting moment in an ever-changing universe. It should be noted that this is not a bad thing. Deep Space Nine argues that these things have value precisely because they are transient.

"So, Westworld is really just like a big holodeck episode, am I right?"

“So, Westworld is really just like a big holodeck episode, am I right?”

In terms of basic transcience, Children of Time represents the passing of a particular era of Deep Space Nine. The Gamma Quadrant has been a feature of Deep Space Nine since Emissary. Early in the run, the Gamma Quadrant was a source of mystery for the show, whether through teases about Odo in episodes like Vortex or sources of artifacts in episodes like Q-Less or through strange encounters in episodes like Battle Lines. Even through the third and fourth seasons, the Gamma Quadrant was the setting of episodes like Meridian, Starship Down and The Ship.

In many ways, Children of Time represents the last story in which the crew of Deep Space Nine go exploring in the Gamma Quadrant. It is the last “mystery of the week” story set against that backdrop. The Federation will mine the entry to the wormhole in A Call to Arms. The Prophets will stop Dominion traffic through the wormhole in Sacrifice of Angels. The next time the audience is invited to visit the Gamma Quadrant will be when Odo returns home briefly in What You Leave Behind. As such, Children of Time feels like an ending to a certain aspect of the show.

Bah. Gammy Gamma Quadrant.

Bah. Gammy Gamma Quadrant.

Endings are necessary. They have value. They do not diminish what came before. Sisko comes very close to making that argument in conversation with the crew at the end of the story, once the colony has been wiped out. That settlement might only have had the briefest of existences, somehow encompassing two centuries of history into the thirty-nine hours in which their existence was rendered possible by the presence of the Defiant crew. However, the fact they do not physically exist (and may never have materially existed at all) is largely irrelevent.

Ultimately, Children of Time suggests that the material existence of the colony is not the point. It does not matter that the colony may never have been real in a logical or metaphysical sense. It still endures in some way because it was experienced. “They existed,” Sisko insists. “As long as we remember them, they always will.” At the end of Children of Time, these descendents essentially become a story. They are a myth and a legend, something that survives and endures through the telling.

Things future.

Spot the difference.

This adds to the sense that Children of Time is ultimately self-referential. It is a commentary on Deep Space Nine itself. Much like the encounter with the Defiant crew crammed two hundred years of history into thirty-nine hours of contant, Deep Space Nine condensed decades of character back story (and seven years of life) into one-hundred-and-seventy episodes. Those lives are no less meaningful for that, just like the characters on Deep Space Nine are no less rich for the fact that then never actually existed.

It does not matter that Voyager and Enterprise largely ignore the series in terms of legacy and continuity. It does not matter that certain strands of fandom act as though it never existed, or insist that it is not really a Star Trek series. It does not matter that once the show is finished it might be reduced to an evolutionary dead end within the Rick Berman era of the Star Trek franchise. All that matters is that Deep Space Nine will be remembered by those who made it and those who watched it.

Tree's company.

Tree’s company.

It is also worth noting that Deep Space Nine explores these issues in its own unique way. Early in the episode, it seems like Children of Time might offer a happy ending with no conflict or tension. When the Defiant crew balk at the idea of stranding themselves on the planet, Yedrin Dax promises an outcome that might make everybody happy. “If we make certain modifications to the Defiant’s systems,” Yedrin explains, “we should be able to amplify this doubling effect and create a quantum duplicate of the entire ship.”

Yedrin’s argument is that this “quantum duplicate” would crash on the planet and the original would go home. Leaving aside the standard “metaphysics of the transporter” or “what about The Prestige?” arguments, Yedrin effective proposes a happy ending for absolutely everybody. It plays almost as a parody of the sorts of techno-babble solutions employed on Voyager week after week in order to avoid real dramatic stakes. It sounds too good to be true, and not just because most of those words are being used in a flexible manner.

Yed more lies.

Yed more lies.

Cleverly, Children of Time reveals that this plan is too good to be true. Deep Space Nine is a show that generally avoids easy answers or trite techno-babble solutions. Yedrin is lying to Sisko to get him to agree with the plan, and instead hopes to trick the Defiant crew into crashing on the planet and preserving the colony. “There was never going to be a duplicate Defiant,” Jadzia deduces. “Just one. And Yedrin wanted to make sure it went back in time.” It is a devastating dramatic reveal, but one in keeping with the themes of the episode and show.

If Deep Space Nine believes that stories (and lives) have value precisely because they end, then it also makes sense that choices have value because characters only have one life. If a choice is to be profound and truly revealing, then there are can be no easy answers or do-overs. It would be easy for the Defiant crew to consign their duplicates to the crash on the planet, so long as they got to go home. The choice to help the settlers has more meaning and value if it comes at a material cost, if there is a sacrifice.

The end is Nerys.

The end is Nerys.

Indeed, Children of Time even allows the characters to pointedly debate the moral decision among themselves. When O’Brien refuses to abandon his family to save eight thousand strangers, it makes sense for his character. More than that, he responses to Kira and Worf on the subject feel organic. They are not sterile or academic. When Kira insists that the Prophets will protect Keiko and Molly, O’Brien counters, “No offence, but I don’t believe in your Prophets.” When Worf decides to stay, O’Brien points out, “That’s easy for you to say. You hardly see your son.”

These are not nice things for a person to say to a friend or a co-worker in the heat of an emotionally-charged debate. It seems highly unlikely that a cast member on The Next Generation would call Worf out for his spectacular neglect of Alexander. However, it is to the credit of Deep Space Nine that the characters can talk to one another in such a candid and human manner. These sentiments are not clean cut and tidy, but they fit neatly in the context of the conversation and they feel like points that should be made.

"Well, look. It's better than Earth-2, right?"

“Well, look. It’s better than Earth-2, right?”

Deep Space Nine would never commit to two seasons of the cast stranded on an alien world. The Defiant must get back to Deep Space Nine. The colony must be wiped out. According to The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, the original plan was for Yedrin Dax to hijack the Defiant’s computer, but the writing staff rejected that idea:

“On The Original Series or The Next Generation, they probably would have made it the scientist and there’d be no harm, no foul. Everyone’s hands would have remained clean. But that wasn’t a consideration here.”

That is a fair argument, and on that says a lot about how the Deep Space Nine writers approach scripting for the show as opposed to scripting for other Star Trek series. However, watching Children of Time, there are still a number of suggestions that Yedrin Dax was originally intended to be the saboteur.

Odo never gelled with the crew.

Odo never gelled with the crew.

Most obviously, the actual identity of the saboteur is only revealed in the final scene between Odo and Kira. Before that scene, Dax and Sisko point to Yedrin as the most obvious suspect. “It must have been someone from the crew,” Dax observes. Sisko responds, “Or someone who used to be.” As for a possible motivation, Sisko suggests, “Perhaps he decided he couldn’t let us go through with it.” However, there is plenty of material from earlier in the episode that suggests possible motivations.

Most obviously, Yedrin is racked with guilt about what happened. Jadzia asked that the Defiant survey the planet in the first place. “I have to make that call because I’m responsible for what happened here!” Yedrin insists. “Jadzia knows what I’m talking about. She’s the one who insisted that the Defiant investigate this planet. You know as well as I do that you should have been more careful. You should have seen that the barrier was unstable when you scanned it.” Jadzia admits, “But I didn’t. I was so bent on making some great discovery that I missed it.”

A wrinkle in time.

A wrinkle in time.

Yedrin makes it perfectly clear that he blames himself for what happened. “And because of you, because of me, Kira died and forty eight people were stranded here,” he confesses. “You don’t know what it was like to live with that. For years, Benjamin, every time I looked at you all I could think of was Jake and how because of me, he would never see his father again.” That seems like a perfectly reasonable justification for wanting to set things right. After all, Yedrin is one of only two settlers who can remember life before planet fall.

In fact, the idea that Yedrin might be the saboteur also plays into the recurring suggestion that the Dax symbiont is inherently opportunistic and untrustworthy. Repeatedly over the course of Deep Space Nine, most notably in episodes like Invasive Procedures and Equilibrium, it has been suggested that the Dax symbiont is at best indifferent to the survival of an individual host. Trill society places the symbiont above all. It seems entirely in character that the symbiont could make a cold calculation to destroy the colony (and Yedrin) in its own best interests.

Touching reunion.

Touching reunion.

It is revealed that older!Odo sabotaged the Defiant so that Kira might live. In doing so, Odo doomed eight thousand people to non-existence and acted in direct contravention of Kira’s wishes. It goes without saying that older!Odo was not acting in Kira’s best interests. In keeping Kira alive and linking with his younger self, it seems like older!Odo was simply trying to manipulate his younger self and Kira into a relationship. It is heavily implied that he makes the decision when Kira concedes that “maybe” things could have been different if she had known of his love.

This is entirely in keeping with Odo’s morality. One of the most interesting aspects of Deep Space Nine is the show’s willingness to contrast a character’s self-image with their behaviour. Odo believes that he is entirely objective and focused upon justice. The reality is far more complex, as explored in episodes like Necessary Evil and Things Past. More than that, Odo is quite capable of making horrific decisions in pursuit of his own satisfaction. Children of Time is very much about setting up his later betrayal of Bajor in Behind the Lines.

More like Odo'h, amirite?

More like Odo’h, amirite?

While Odo’s decision in Children of Time is clearly meant to be disturbing and unsettling, there is still a sense that Deep Space Nine is struggling with the relationship between Odo and Kira. The production staff attempted to resolve it on several occasions, most notably in episodes like Crossfire or A Simple Investigation. However, the writers keep returning to the idea that Odo is very much in love with Kira and that he cannot simply get past his attraction to her. Children of Time pushes that idea forward slightly.

In a sense, this is just how writing for television works. It is the romantic equivalent of Chekov’s Gun. An unrequited crush between two primary characters is highly likely to remain unrequited across so many seasons. The power of plot and audience expectations seem to inevitably draw characters together, despite whatever roadblocks the writers might throw up in their way. Children of Time confirms that Odo’s crush upon Kira is not going away, even if it does drive Odo to truly monstrous (and really creepy) actions on her behalf.

"To be fair, it went better than my last break-up."

“To be fair, it went better than my last break-up.”

There is an unfortunate tendency, in the midst of all of this, to deny Kira a sense of agency. She is rendered as a passive observer of Odo’s obsession. As Abigail Nussbaum notes, this is a recurring trend in Kira’s romances:

There’s also an unfortunate to undertone Shakaar, in which Kira allows herself to stop grieving for Bareil, when one watches it with the knowledge that she and Shakaar will later become lovers. It’s almost as though she’s being handed from one to the other. In fact, though I’ve said that Kira’s romantic relationships are healthy, they are also, with the exception of her affair with Bareil, told from the man’s point of view. Shakaar exists solely to spark Odo’s jealousy–his and Kira’s relationship is only ever viewed from the outside–and her relationship with Odo is related almost exclusively from his perspective.

Deep Space Nine invests considerable energy in Odo’s attraction to Kira. However, the show never explains how Kira could forgive Odo for what his future self did in Children of Time or what he does in Behind the Lines.

Giving her the all-Kira.

Giving her the all-Kira.

Indeed, even within Children of Time, the revelation that Odo loves Kira is primarily framed in terms of what it means to Odo rather than what it means to Kira. In fact, Kira’s first reaction upon discovering that Odo has secretly loved her for all of these years is to realise how terrible she must have made him feel. When older!Odo apologises for just throwing that out there, Kira admits, “It’s not that. I was just thinking about all the times I came to you for advice about Shakaar and Bareil. It must have been very hard for you to listen to me go on about another man.”

She is entirely right. That probably was very hard for Odo to listen to. And, to be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with this; there is no indication that he abused his position of trust or that he tried to manipulate Kira based upon those conversations. It could be argued that it would have been healthier for Odo to recuse himself from those conversations or back away from Kira as he tried at the end of Crossfire. However, that is for Odo to work out, and there is no indication that he has ever been anything other than a legitimately good friend to Kira.

Molly-ing it over.

Molly-ing it over.

At the same time, it seems really strange that Kira’s first reaction to Odo’s confession that he loves her is to acknowledge how hard it must have been for him. It seems like she would have more questions, or need more time to think it through, or even just dwell on how dramatically it alters the dynamic that has existed between them for half a decade. However, Deep Space Nine has always been far more interested in how Odo feels about the relationship than in how Kira might approach it. The conversation in Children of Time is part of that.

The romantic aspects of Children of Time are problematic. As with a lot of the more challenging or controversial aspects of Odo’s personality, Deep Space Nine never properly explores the consequences of older!Odo’s willingness to sacrifice eight thousand lives so that Kira might live. Given that the production staff specifically chose Odo to be the saboteur so that it would not simply be a one-shot character, this feels like a missed opportunity. Then again, it speaks to broader issues with this phase of the relationship between Odo and Kira.

He's like O-dough in her hands.

He’s like O-dough in her hands.

Still, leaving aside the more troubling (and long-standing) issues with the relationship between Odo and Kira, Children of Time is a beautiful reflection upon temporality and legacy. It is a nice episode for this point in Star Trek‘s thirtieth anniversary season and at this interval in the run of Deep Space Nine. Few things last forever, but that does not mean they are without value.

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4 Responses

  1. This is one of my favorite episodes of DS9. Every character beat is pitch perfect. Nice to see O’Brien stirring the pot again. (Remember “Rocks and Shoals” and “Hippocratic Oath.”)

    The highlight is the confrontation between Yedrin and Dax. Great exchange of looks at the end. The guy playing Yedrin acquitted himself very well, particularly when discussing Worf.

    It’s also the closest the Odo/Kira relationship came to working for me. You’re right, the relationship is very one-sided. Whereas their friendship was saltier and had history.

    • Interesting. I actually quite like Kira and Odo, once they’re actually together. I like Odo standing in the background as Kira squares down a Romulan fleet, or Kira recognising that Odo’s happiness is more important to her than Odo remaining on the station. It’s all the twists and turns necessary to get to Odo and Kira being in a relationship that cause problems for me.

  2. I really like this episode, even if it is often very downbeat. Some lovely character work, especially regarding O’Brien as you say.

    To me this always seemed a companion piece to ‘The Sound of Her Voice’, another bittersweet ghost story about the crew uniting around someone (or several someones) that turn out to be past help.

    • The Sound of Her Voice is a lovely little episode, and massively underrated. Particularly in that stretch of… rocky episodes. (Valiant is also top-notch.) And you’re right about them both being ghost stories. In fact, they could both easily be adapted for any nautical adventure with a minimum of fuss.

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