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EPISODE REVIEWS

Children of Time

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Airdate: Week of May 5th to May 9th, 1997

Written by: René Echevarria (Teleplay);Gary Holland and Ethan H. Calk (Story)

Directed by: Allan Kroeker

In-Short: Slightly cumbersome in its setup and the way it played out as well as stirring up the Odo/Kira relationship adversely, Children of Time was not at all what I was expecting. (I'll tell ya why below!)

Brief Summary:The crew discovers a settlement of 8000 people on a planet who are descendants of the crew after an anomaly sends them back in time two-hundred years. Now they must decide to avoid the accident or commit themselves to be marooned and thus preserve the timeline of these so-called children of time.

Review

Well folks... prepare for a ride on the dangerous side.

I do, of course, refer to the widespread acclaim that Children of Time has been receiving from fans all over the 'net. Some have named this show Season five's best, or ranked it up there with The Visitor, and some have even called it one of Trek's all-time best. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I disagree. Why? While entertaining to watch, mainly because of the Odo/Kira interaction, the setup was cumbersome in many ways that took away from the over all power that the script was intending to conjure.

Let's start with the initial setup. My first qualm regarding this story is the way in which it is presented. I shudder at time-travel stories in which the core of the plot revolves around the intent to invoke emotional involvement from a situation that only occurs if an event that hasn't happened yet makes an event already have happened. (Yes, there will be a test on this later...) This is precisely what Children of Time dives right into. For instance, Dax reported life signs from the planet before they entered the electromagnetic field (or whatever it was), but were the 8,000 colonists on the planet at that time? The answer, I am forced to conclude, is 'no'. According to Yedrin, the Defiant crash landed on the planet, in the past, when she tries to leave passing though the field a second time. This means that if the Defiant had never gone to investigate, she wouldn't have tried to pass through the field a second time and the crash wouldn't have occurred; thus the colonists would never have existed. This concept is never dealt with very well in Trek, a trend that continues here.

This flaw is blatantly obvious throughout the show when numerous characters refer to the results of avoiding fate as causing the death of the 8,000 inhabitants. They weren't going to die, nor be killed; this dilemma is what the entire story relies on. The show was about whether or not to cheat fate and avoid the accident- a decision that wouldn't need making if the Defiant had never strayed or the crew realized that avoiding the accident would not kill the people, only undo their actions leading to the creation of the colony.

Now, granted it is almost moot to dislike the show because of this issue since the point of the episode was the decision that had to be made. It's just that in my mind, the decision is simple: since no one can deem which timeline is correct and must continue, I simply conclude that going back to the point when I strayed from the timeline only restores that timeline which I came from. At this point, everyone says to me: Well Steve, how do YOU know if you have strayed? How do YOU know that the accident wasn't supposed to happen anyway? To them I can only respond by saying that with such a temporal paradox I cannot speak to that point mainly because I denounce the idea that the future already exists and that each individual has a predetermined destiny which cannot be avoided. In the words of Guinan:

All I know is that THIS IS WRONG.

- Yesterday's Enterprise, the episode that made temporal paradox stories popular in the post-TOS universe.

In that famous TNG story (which I regard as the best of all-time by the way), Guinan articulates perfectly that there is no way to KNOW which timeline is CORRECT, only through intuition. My thoughts exactly.

All that being said... the way in which the moral dilemma was set up and presented was cumbersome and too reliant on the reset-button. Whew! (Everyone take a deep breath, please.)

Now, assuming I don't know anything about that... methinks I'll discuss the other problems I had with the show. Two major threads were integral to this story. The first being that a crewmember must die, and the second being the explanation of the descendants. The former was realized during the teaser. Kira is shown existing out-of-body as the Defiant passes through the barrier, and frankly you had to have missed the visual entirely to not know then that SHE would be the one to die. This annoyed me. I was hoping for a little surprise. The same irritation occurred when in the teaser AGAIN, the mystery of the colonists was revealed in a few lines of dialogue. Again, I grant that the story wasn't ABOUT Kira's death, or discovering the nature of the colonists, but this clunky way of spilling the beans just felt sooooo unnatural. This happened again when Yedrin and the woman (her name escapes me at the moment) informed the Defiant crew of exactly what was going to happen to them. (Which brings something else to mind: since they told Sisko et al what was GOING TO happen, it hadn't happened yet, so shouldn't the colonists not exist yet? But if so, wouldn't the original Defiant have run into the same situation and then ended up avoiding it because of the old Odo? Uhhh... my head's starting to hurt.)

The only reason that I tended to like watching this show somewhat despite these pestering paradoxical discrepancies was the development between Odo and Kira. I had been wondering for a long time how Kira was going to find out about his feelings. The way in which the writers chose to do it was very unique and opened the door to such a great change in their relationship. Unfortunately, the writers chose to miss the boat on this, and practically ruined the development that had been created. By not letting young Odo know that Kira knew, the relationship between the two could've taken on such a diverse facet. The chemistry would've been so enhanced by having the audience know that each knew about Odo's feelings, but instead, they decided to make both know that the other knew, and then tried unsuccessfully to make us think that Kira now holds adverse feelings towards Odo. This almost destroys the chances for anything to develop between them in the future. Not that I have any desire to see the two transformed into some Worf & Dax-ish couple, but the chemistry has been so negatively altered. Especially because we know that this isn't the end of the thread. I mean c'mon! You know it'll be brought back just as soon as the writers make Kira forget about hating Odo. Therefore, the primary plot of Children of Time is resolved by setting the reset button and the idea of Kira being angry with Odo will also be reset sometime soon.

[My head is really starting to ache... please forgive the wordiness]

Another thing that bothered me is how the shown ended. After Sisko realizes the quantum duplicate idea of Yedrin to be false, he adamantly decides to go back. But the problem starts with Kira's arbitrary move to not allow herself to be responsible for the non-existence of 8,000 people.

First of all, the attempts to make me feel for the colonists via scenes with children in them just didn't work. So did the attempt to invoke power from Yedrin's claim that he was trying to right a wrong. This just didn't cut it. The discussion scene between the main officers regarding Kira's concerns about cheating fate was very well done. The dialogue here was the best in the show, and this scene invoked more power than any other did. The differences between the characters really showed themselves, culminating in an excellent performance by Colm Meany and Sisko's announcement that Kira's plan wasn't being considered anyway. O'Brien's down-to-earth statement that he doesn't believe in your [Kira's] Prophets exemplified these ideological differences perfectly. I really identified with O'Brien here mainly because I too do not believe in a predetermined fate.

This relates to the end of the show because I felt so cheated by O'Brien and the Sisko. The planting-day scene was emotional (partly because of the usage of good music, and again, children), but nothing can make me think that Miles would suddenly change his mind and then that Sisko et al would just decide to just up and sacrifice themselves and Kira. Sorry, but a commercial break doesn't convince me one bit. The second part of the end, dealing with Odo and Kira, I've already discussed partly. It just wasn't necessary to let Odo know that Kira knew. Plus the way too predictable realization that the older Odo was responsible for altering the flight path was just too obvious. Then Kira is surprised by it? I don't think so. Sorry. Not buying it.

The very end confirms that there are no colonists on the planet. Interesting how in the beginning there were lifeforms on it. But at the end, it is clearly confirmed that the colony is gone. This was just a nice way to confirm that there were no colonists there to begin with, but if they had said that then more people might've thought about the discrepancy I discussed early on. (Not going through it again, please refer to top) The bottom line is that this story is a reset-button baby right from the start. The writers try to avoid the actuality that the colonists never died by never mentioning that they didn't exist before the Defiant traveled through the barrier, and it just doesn't work.

Now Some Quicker Observations

- If Worf taught the Klingon ways to posterity, I still don't see how his followers ended up separate from the colony. Certainly Worf lived with Dax and the others. Also, since Worf is the son of Mogh, shouldn't his followers be the Sons of Worf? I won't even mention the lack of Trill attributes in the Sons of Mogh or the lack of Klingon features in Yedrin... but the tale about Worf killing people just by looking at them was one nice touch.

- The Quark school program and Bajorian grave were also nice touches, as well as the Molly and baseball traditions.

- The way Sisko changed his tune as soon as O'Brien (assumed to last to agree to stay) did belittled his comment that the decision had already been made and that everyone's concerns were only being discussed, not considered. Which brings to mind, whatabout the other Defiant crewmembers?

- Does the phrase Don't put all you senior officers in one shuttle-craft mean anything to anyone? Why where they all there?

- I liked Bashir's bachelor attitude towards the whole situation.

- How come Kira showed relatively no emotion towards the knowledge that she was going to die?

- Finally, the older Odo was probably the most delightful part of this show, even if his kiss and exchange with Kira ended up less meaningful than it should've been.

Writing: Overuse of temporal anomalies to spur emotional situations. The power just wasn't there. Also, Children of Time contradicts what the Trek universe set forth as the right decision is Yesterday's Enterprise. (but different writers, different outlook I suppose)

Directing: Nothing notable in my opinion.

Acting: Colm Meany definitely shined, as well as the brilliant performance of the older Odo.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Quote

You cannot cheat fate.

Well I wouldn't mind cheating fate all the way back to the station!

-O'Brien expresses the less subliminal attitude towards his situation.

Next Week: I hope Blaze of Glory effectively ties up the events of For the Uniform.

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