Free At Last
"Hard Time" Plot Summary:
O'Brien has memories of a twenty-year prison term implanted into his brain by aliens, and lives out unspeakable torture. When rescued, he has difficulty reintegrating into his life and work on the station, and is confused by the role fellow prisoner Ee'char plays in his memories.
Hard Time Well, I can't say that it's a surprise that Colm Meany can give a performance like this - more a surprise that the writers came up with a storyline worthy of his talents. The idea wasn't terrifically original: reminded me of "Ex Post Facto" from Voyager last year, and of "Tribunal" two years ago on this show. But the execution was superb. I have only one complaint, and it's the same one I had at the end of "The Visitor": an event like this should change a man's life, but I get we get the same old chief we know and love in a couple of weeks. No lasting repercussions from having a life condensed into a few minutes.
The interweaving of past and present was particularly effective, since we needed to SEE what was going on in O'Brien's head to have a real sense of his pain. I thought the other characters reacted admirably: Sisko intervened just when he needed to (though I don't much like the ease with which we're led to believe he and Kira agreed to O'Brien's torture), Bashir really showed how much more empathetic a person he is now than a few years ago, and for once, I believed Miles and Keiko actually mean something to one another.
I'm not completely clear on the role of Ee'char - O'Brien's conscience or his dark side? The Chief's always been a sort of geeky Everyman, which I mean in the best possible way - he's a little stuffy and serious about his job, but he likes a good drink and a good fight, he's interested in history, he can play a mean game of darts. He's not someone I'd expect to have a lot of hidden hatred or lack of self-worth. I wished there were more references on the series to his feelings of anger about Cardassians left over from his TNG experiences with Captains Maxwell and Picard.
I guess the only other thing I have to say about this episode is that I hope we get to see more of O'Brien. The Chief has never interested me all that much as a character, but this episode proves that Meany can do wonders when given something to work with.
Deep Space Nine Reviews