Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Destiny Uncertain For The “Children Of Time!”

The Good: Intriguing ethical dilemma, Character work, Plot
The Bad: Supporting actors' performances
The Basics: When the Defiant crew learns they are all to die in an accident that will spawn a colony on a distant planet, they must make a difficult choice in “Children Of Time.”

Time travel episodes, in any series, have a tendency to be a mixed bag. Usually, they lack consequences or sensibility and as a result, they tend to rate pretty low over all. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine seems to buck that trend frequently with its few time travel episodes such as "Past Tense I and II," "The Visitor," and "Trials and Tribble-ations." "Children Of Time," then, continues the trend with a very different type of time travel story.

While exploring, the Defiant encounters a planet with a mysterious energy barrier. Once inside, it discovers the planet below has life signs; human, Trill, Klingon, basically members of every race currently aboard the Defiant. Upon meeting the colonists, they discover that the colony is comprised of ancestors from the Defiant crew. As the Defiant leaves the system, they are told, the Defiant will be pulled back in time 200 years and destroyed. As a result, Kira will be killed and the Defiant crew will become stranded, forced to tame the planet and survive. Knowing this causes a serious crisis in the Defiant's crew; should they allow the Defiant to be destroyed to fulfill their destiny - killing Kira, at the very least - or should they alter their trajectory out of the energy field, causing the colony to never exist, killing generations of individuals on the planet.

This is a weird ethical dilemma that could not possibly exist without the time travel element to the story and "Children Of Time" makes this somewhat flimsy sounding premise work. Immediately, the viewers are engaged by the problem. The episode is complicated by the colony's version of Odo. That Odo tells Kira what our regular Odo has not been able to for the past two seasons; he loves her. The elder Odo's love complicates Kira's decision and moves the entire episode toward its climax. It's a passionate thing and Odo's inability to cope with the loss combined with Kira finding out his feelings will seriously complicate many of the episodes that follow.

The guest cast is the only real drawback to this episode. None of the colonists resonate with any sense of identity. Instead, all of the guest actors seem to flounder next to a very established core of regular actors. As a consequence, it is difficult to care about the colonists and realistically believe that there is any true dilemma occurring. Instead, it feels like the ethical debate is somewhat weakened by the idea of WHO the crew is trying to save.

That aside, "Children Of Time" is pretty wonderful. The regular actors do an amazing job of holding the piece together and make the outlandish situation seem plausible. While much of the episode's focus is on Sisko, who appears to have to make the decision, Avery Brooks does only a competent job at bringing the episode to life. Instead, it is Colm Meany who instantly stands out as the lifeblood of "Children Of Time." Meany's portrayal of the resistant O'Brien makes a very human tether to the difficult situation. O'Brien makes the argument for letting the colony never come into existence; that all of the crew have lives back at Deep Space Nine that deserve better than to die on some planet away from the ones they love. Meany's performance is carefully balanced to keep O'Brien's emphasis on the love he wants to return to, never making the character seem cruel in his dispassion toward the Defiant descendants.

But the episode marks the first time the chemistry between Rene Auberjonois and Nana Visitor is truly tested. Odo and Kira have been friends and the elder Odo's passion for the Major here is presented very organically, in a very needy way. Fortunately, Rene and Visitor are both professional actors. They pull their emotionally complex scenes off well, without any cheap answers. It is unfortunate that the revelation did not spark the eventual relationship between the two. Instead, their romance blossoms in a very contrived circumstance in "His Way" a full year from this episode. Visitor and Auberjonois have great on-screen chemistry, making their complicated feelings introduced in this episode seem very real.

"Children Of Time" may be enjoyed by anyone who likes a good dilemma that is tired of seeing problems solved with weapons. This is a very philosophical episode and one that is appropriate for the whole family, though it is likely to bore children. As the last episode before the series turns exceptionally dark for almost ten episodes, "Children Of Time" offers a complex problem and does not insult the audience by making easy answers. Despite Odo's revelation to Kira being mentioned in a later episode, it is difficult to consider this a part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the perfect season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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