"Time's Orphan" 
Season Six, Episode 24
Written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Music by Dennis McCarthy
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Terry Farrell as Lt Cmdr Jadzia Dax
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
Rosalind Chao as Keiko O'Brien
Michelle Krusiec as 18 year-old Molly
Hana Hatae as young Molly
 

Synopsis:

A family picnic on a Bajoran moon ends in tragedy for the O'Briens' when Molly falls into a time portal and disappears. Miles manages to retrieve her, but inadvertantly locks onto her at the wrong point in time. When she materialises she is an eighteen year-old who has spent the better part of her life isolated on a deserted planet.


Review: 
 
Time's Orphan is a bit of a mixed bag; at times it's poignant and affecting, whilst at times also low-key and underwhelming. On the whole it's a decent, if slightly disappointing hour -- and certainly not great as O'Brien stories go. 

First of all, it's nice to finally see Keiko and the kids again. Whilst it only makes sense that O'Brien would want his family out of harms way in light of the war, it seems odd that the writers keep writing out Keiko for long periods (it first happened back in the third season when she went off to Bajor). What gives? And one also questions the logic of bringing them back to the station when there's little indication the station is any safer than it was a year ago -- the events of Tears of the Prophets only go to underline this. Still, Rosalind Chao and Colm Meaney have an adorably easy, warm chemistry and it's a pleasure to see them together again. And let's not forget the kids; young Hana Hatae has grown a lot since we last saw her, but she's still adorable, and this must only be about the third time we've ever had the chance to see little Kirayoshi. By the way, I also appreciated seeing Chester again! It's always nice to see a family on Trek. 

The crux of the story, however, was the tragedy with the time-portal. While O'Brien does manage to rescue Molly, he picks her up at the wrong point in time and - bam! - they end up with an eighteen-year old Molly, who has been all on her own for ten years of her life. It's an interesting concept and there are some genuinely affecting moments as Miles and Keiko try to reach through to their traumatised daughter, such as the ball scene and the bit where Molly gets Keiko to brush her hair. 

But sadly the story's execution leaves a lot to be desired. For all the strong, touching moments such as I described above, Time's Orphan lacks spark, emotion and lustre. You know, this episode had the potential to be this season's The Visitor; it had an innovative, promising plot and some talented actors at its desposal. But Time's Orphan falls way short of The Visitor

Part of the problem is the way the plot lacks fluidity; it doesn't so much flow as it jolts from A to B to C. Or, to put it another way, it's rather obvious. It would have benefited by focussing more on the O'Briens' reactions and making us feel for what they were going through. I can only imagine the extreme difficulty of having a child with any kind of emotional/mental/physical disability, and whilst we were aware that Miles and Keiko weren't exactly jumping for joy, I think the story could have gone a lot further to show how they were affected by Molly's condition. This could have been an exceptionally powerful look at dealing with a child's disability, but it falls on its own inadequate plotting and approach. 

Another problem I had was with the conclusion where Miles and Keiko decide to send Molly back in time. This is when things start to get a bit morally dubious, particularly if you're looking at this as an example of dealing with a difficult child -- because in reality, taking the easy option and getting rid of the child isn't an option. Of course, these were extenuating circumstances and I can see why the O'Briens did what they did, but there were still moral implications that weren't especially well considered. What would have tightened the drama, and certainly made it feel more real would have had Miles and Keiko agonising over their decision a little more, maybe even had them argue over it. 

From this point on, the episode felt rather mechanical, as if we were no longer watching the characters, but merely watching a plot in motion. And whilst I was genuinely happy to see them get their little Molly back (as would anyone with half a heart!) it felt rather...I don't know, contrived -- maybe a little forced. There was something very poignant about the older Molly (most likely unintentionally) sacrificing her existence to get her younger self home, but again it wasn't handled nearly deftly enough to have the resonance it deserved. I'm all for a happy ending, particularly 'cos Miles so desperately needs one once in a while! But it didn't feel especially honest. It made the entire forty minutes previous seem rather pointless which obviously doesn't bode well as a conclusion. 

Scripting aside, the other creative endeavours were surprisingly sub-par. The directing was generally decent, with one or two nice touches, but on the whole it lacked punch. And for the first time in as long as I can remember, I was actually quite disappointed with the usually excellent Colm Meaney. Whilst his performance was decent, I felt he could have put a lot more into it. He is normally superb at conveying a tortured O'Brien, but his reactions here seemed far too low-key, a major case point being his jarringly under-played reaction to Molly falling into the time portal. For all he knew, his little girl had been vapourised and you'd expect a slightly more traumatised reaction. Throughout the episode Meaney seemed distant and detached which was disappointing. Luckily Rosalind Chao at least attempted to instil some emotional response and gave a solid performance, although as I said above, it would have been nice had the script given Meaney and Chao more room to react. 

The Dax/Worf sub-plot was an amiable piece of fluff, foreshadowing the tragic season finale. As a recent convert to the Dax/Worf pairing it was enjoyable to watch their relationship grow -- and particularly nice to see Terry Farrell in a larger than average role before her impending departure. It's rather cute watching Worf interact with children and his determination to prove himself a good father to Dax was sweet. 

Some other comments; 
 

Anyway, in a nutshell Time's Orphan takes a potentially riveting premise and somewhat botches with clumsy, inaduequate plotting. There are some nice touches, and it's certainly entertaining, but like I said above, given that this could have been this season's The Visitor that makes it all the more disappointing.   

Rating: 6


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