Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Time's Orphan   Rewatch 
September 22, 2016 4:03 AM - Season 6, Episode 24 - Subscribe

O'Brien must suffer the loss of his daughter Molly. Then, he must suffer more when she comes back…different. Meanwhile, Worf faces the wrath of Yoshi.

- The basic premise of this episode was originally conceived by Joe Menosky for The Next Generation as a way to write Alexander Rozhenko out of the series (as René Echevarria explains it, Menosky came up with the story "as a way to get rid of Alexander, who he really disliked!"). In the original story, Worf and Alexander are on a hunting trip, and Worf loses sight of his son for moment, at which time Alexander falls into a time portal and is retrieved fifteen years later as an embittered Klingon warrior who hates his father for having abandoned him. The episode was never green-lit because Michael Piller was not keen on killing off the character (again, as Echevarria explains, "Alexander was Michael Piller's mother's favorite character!"). However, the idea of an older Alexander from the future did form the basis of the episode "Firstborn".

- Although René Echevarria had pitched Menosky's story (with Molly O'Brien instead of Alexander) several times to Ira Steven Behr over the years, Behr had always said no to the episode. Finally, as the sixth season drew to a close, Behr relented, claiming there were three reasons to make the show at the time; "It had been a long time since we'd done a science fiction episode, we'd wanted to do another O'Brien show, and we needed to do something that would be pretty much a bottle show."

- The idea to alter the story so that Molly was a feral child was Ira Behr's. When composing the script, Thompson and Weddle interviewed a number of psychologists and clinical social workers, and much of the behavior exhibited by Molly in the episode is realistic for someone cut off from Human contact from the ages of 8 to 18.

- All of the exteriors for this episode were shot in Malibu Creek State Park. During the filming of the picnic scene, Rosalind Chao heard some of the crew whispering during her dialogue, which is an unheard of occurrence, however, she didn't pay any attention and continued on with the scene. After cut had been called, Steve Oster slowly approached the cast and said, "Now Rosalind, don't panic, but...." As Oster explains, "We were in a big open field shooting the master shot with Keiko and Miles and the two children, when we saw something moving in the grass. It was a rattlesnake working its way towards the shot. We didn't want to alarm the actors and cause a bigger problem. There were two small children there, and we didn't want to freak them out. Allan was unaware of what we were seeing because he was concentrating on the performances, so he didn't call 'Cut'!" Oster and the camera crew quickly discussed what to do (which was the whispering heard by Chao), but decided to play it cool, so as soon as Kroeker did say cut, Oster very calmly asked all the cast to walk slowly towards him, which they did. The snake then proceeded through the shot, closely followed by a park ranger.

"I am a Klingon warrior and a Starfleet officer. I have piloted starships through Dominion minefields. I have stood in battle against Kelvans twice my size. I courted and won the heart of the magnificent Jadzia Dax. If I can do these things, I can make this child go to sleep."
"Talk about losing perspective."

- Worf and Dax

"I wonder if she realized that the little girl she was looking at was herself."

- Keiko O'Brien, on older Molly seeing herself as a child

"I'm disappointed in you, chief.... If anyone could break a prisoner out of a holding cell and get them off the station I'd have thought it would have been you. On your way."

- Odo, as he opens the airlock for the O'Briens

"By the way, what does... "gung-gung-gung" mean?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, it was the strangest thing. I was taking Yoshi home, and he kept shaking his rattle and saying gung-gung-gung!"
"He did?"
"He seemed to get a big kick out of it. So what does it mean?"
"That is between Yoshi and me."

- Dax and Worf
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (16 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
(Memory Alpha link)

Well that gave me some bad Battlestar Galactica finale flashbacks. The idea that loving parents could decide that sending their daughter off to die alone in the wilderness was so bonkers, I was just sitting there like "wait, what?" If I was meant to believe that the threat of a trial and conviction for the bar stabbing was enough motivation, it failed, since surely the Federation justice system is about rehabilitation and not punishment. It almost would have made more sense for Miles & Keiko decide that they should escape the entire family through the portal, then they could watch feral-Molly disappear from the timeline. If he was serious about being wiling to transfer off DS9 rather than be separated from his family again as he said in the beginning of the episode, then surely he and Keiko would have been willing to transfer to wherever she was going to get the best treatment.

The Worf/Jadzia+baby Yoshi stuff was cute. But this script needed some more work.

(And why/how did feral-Molly have perfect bangs? Only little Molly gets to have a rat's nest wig?)
posted by oh yeah! at 5:01 AM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

In the original transmitted version Chief O'Brien shouts "Bollocks" when something blows up.
This is not something you can say on a show airing at 1800 in the UK, so... cut.

Another solid entry in the "O Brien must suffer" catalogue.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:48 AM on September 22, 2016

(Memory Alpha link)

*headsmack* Thanks. I knew I was forgetting something. That's what I get for posting under a time crunch.

If I was meant to believe that the threat of a trial and conviction for the bar stabbing was enough motivation, it failed, since surely the Federation justice system is about rehabilitation and not punishment.

I interpreted that more as they were worried that Federation rehabilitation wasn't going to work properly because of her feral issues. Which itself raises some questions.

Still, considering how rarely O'Brien's family factors into…anything, it's good that they did a story like this, and strong performances all around.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:00 AM on September 22, 2016

DS9 is my favourite of the Treks, particularly the last few seasons but this episode and the last are two that I have no problem skipping.
posted by juiceCake at 6:13 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

In the original transmitted version Chief O'Brien shouts "Bollocks" when something blows up.
This is not something you can say on a show airing at 1800 in the UK, so... cut.

I recently watched all of DS9 on one of the crappy American tv show repeats channels on freeview, and even though they broadcast this at 11am they did leave O'Brien saying bollocks in, which was nice.
posted by dng at 6:34 AM on September 22, 2016

Well, I liked this better than the last episode, but I think that they both have in common some good intentions, but a really problematic execution. There are some things that I could nitpick on (no real explanation of how Molly survived by herself for ten years, the O'Briens picking a picnic spot on Golana that was unexplored enough that it had a cave with an ancient time machine in it, said time machine not being under any sort of guard when they came back to it at the episode's end), but the real problem for me is their resolution to Molly's problem.

Up until then, it's a pretty good depiction of a family coping with a child that is having psychological/developmental problems as an adolescent/young adult, but then they decide that, rather than institutionalizing her, they're going to return her to the time and place where she's the only sentient being on the freaking planet. It's as if the episode suddenly switched gears from "dealing with a special needs child is really, really difficult, and there are no easy answers" to "Molly is really just a wild child who needs to run free, free as the wind blows." I mean, when I was a kid, I loved the book Rascal, but you know, Rascal was a fucking raccoon. (Also, the cynical adult in me believes that Rascal, having become thoroughly acclimated to humans, went on to a career of raiding garbage cans, and may have eventually been turned into a hat.) And would the institution on Dalvos Prime really have been that bad? True, psychiatric institutions in the Federation have not had a good showing in the past--see "Dagger of the Mind" and "Whom Gods Destroy"--but presumably they've been improved in the last century, or at least are better supervised, and I bet that the Dalvos facility probably has a holodeck for therapeutic purposes that doesn't have the drawback of Klingons banging on the door wanting to get their holo-war on. If Miles was going to transfer somewhere, he could go there. But, of course, the whole idea ultimately was really to press the reset button. Le sigh.

But, anyway, the bits with Worf were cute. I thought that his remorse WRT Yoshi banging his head may have been a subtle callback to "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." (another problematic episode that could have been a lot better) and Worf's story about accidentally killing the kid during soccer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:39 AM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

So many bizarro parenting choices in this episode. Like, that "no, we can't take those years away from her" of Keiko's when Miles floated the idea of trying again to retrieve young Molly from earlier in the timeline. You mean those treasured years of subsisting all alone on a planet without even Wilson the volleyball for company, wondering why her parents abandoned her? Sure, those years are sancrosanct. Should we take a leave of absence and go get some dedicated professional help, maybe somewhere nice and quiet on Bajor? No, let's just fumble along here ourselves in a converted cargo bay.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:30 AM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

That seemed pretty weird to me too.
Like, oh hey, my child was traumatised for ten years and is now deeply psychologically damaged.
Do you want this magic button which will make that trauma never have happened?
Lol, Nope!

As ever the morals of sci fi are all over the place.
It's a straightforward choice, press the button and ten years of suffering and misery for your child go away (plus who knows how many years of trouble for you , her and maybe others) to be replaced by ten years of being properly brought up by loving parents and the cost is.. what? a nebulous sense of preserved rights of an individual?

I wonder if this book mentions it.
Actually wait, what am I talking about? I literally live with and am married to a philosopher. I'm gonna see if she'll watch this episode tonight and see what if she can put it in real ethics words for m.

In my googling for a discussion of the ethics someone noted the following (i lost the link, so no attribution, sorry):
"So, what happens with the alien who was pressing charges against Feral Molly for assault? Temporal law must be baffling."
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:48 AM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

And you thought the transgender episode was bad? This one is 9 billion times worse, and I am not even exaggerating! At least that pushed the boundaries, this was like some sick joke.
posted by marienbad at 8:11 AM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

I never know what to make of this episode. It's a lot darker than most Dominion War episodes, I give it that.

LOL at Worf citing Alexander as an argument in his favor.
posted by riruro at 8:23 AM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

If I can do these things, I can make this child go to sleep."

OK Worf, good luck!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:13 PM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

For a different take on the same sort of idea, see the Doctor Who episode The Girl Who Waited.

rot13 for spoiler discussion because I'm not sure the spoiler policy for other shows, and Star Trek and Doctor Who have a pretty heavy overlap: Gung rcvfbqr qbrf cerff gur erfrg ohggba naq fnirf gur lbhatre irefvba bs Nzl, ohg gur fubj znxrf vg n ceboyrzngvp qrpvfvba. Byqre Nzl jnagf gb fgnl, vf hygvzngryl gevpxrq vagb oryvrivat gung obgu irefvbaf pna fheivir va beqre gb tnva ure pbbcrengvba.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:50 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Incidentally my philosopher agrees that beaming out child molly would count as murder of adult molly, but that the rights of the child should take precedence. I asked if it would make a difference if adult molly was 17 instead of 18 and that caused some consternation, and she said that it might.
Then she called me a monster for suggesting that you could just wait for her birthday and then do it and it would be fine.

Anyway, the conclusion on utilitarian grounds was that the least suffering would clearly be beaming out child molly and therefore the correct ethical choice from a utilitarian perspective.
The issue of it being the same person and there being time travel involved complicated the issue a little, the conclusion being that consent of adult molly would really be required to make it truly the best moral choice (which of course is difficult to obtain given her feral state, but via Deus Ex Scriptwriters they manage this anyway)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:39 AM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't say I exactly enjoyed this episode, but it was dramatically effective to me, specifically, as an individual, because I am an adoptee, and the core of being adopted is that your birth parent sent you though a one-way gate into a different timeline in which you must navigate an environment that is completely lacking caregivers and educators that are closely biologically related to you, and consequently you percieve the world as inherently hostile and regard even nurturing relationships with suspicion.

Feral Molly's murder was something I rooted for in an unsettling way, because I was identifying with her pain in ways that are unusual for me to experience in the context of a Trek episode.

(I have occasionally touched on how themes of alienated identity as well as literal in-plot adoption are major themes of Trek, as well as specifically superhero genre fiction. This episode fits that theme.)
posted by mwhybark at 10:45 AM on September 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

This could have been fixed so easily: Just don't send her back through the portal to die (presumably before age 40) but "until this mess with the Federation blows over". And then proceed with the reset button plot if they must.

I think that the ethical questions are perhaps more subtle than the basic utilitatarian analysis of child vs adult. When would removing 10 years of life experience from a person without their consent be ethical and when not? If it's ethical to do it via time portal, what about by memory editing and aging reversal?
posted by joeyh at 7:06 PM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

As in the case of Children of Time, I'll maintain that changing the timeline to erase someone's existence is morally different from murder. This also isn't removing 10 years of life from Molly - it's erasing one version of her. The Molly who exists in the "present" at the end of the episode never had anything taken from her because she never was that older version.

Still, my biggest problem with the episode is that the only support on offer ends up being "send Molly to an institution". She's clearly not legally culpable for the assault by any reasonable standard, and it's totally reasonable to say she can't stay on DS9 because they don't have the ability to deal with the situation there. But it doesn't make sense that the only way forward is one that separates her from her parents. They need to go together, wherever they're going.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:16 PM on July 22, 2023

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