Molly O'Brien, Wild Child
"Time's Orphan" Plot Summary:
The O'Briens go on a picnic to a planet they've visited before, but while the adults are cooing over Yoshi, Molly cartwheels into a time portal and vanishes. With Dax's help, they are able to retrieve her from 300 years in the past, but they miscalibrate and pull her out ten years too late: she's an eighteen-year-old who hasn't seen another sentient being in a decade, since the aliens who built the time portal were long gone by the time she arrived on the planet. She's in perfect health, but she's lost all her language skills, memories, and ability to live in the confined spaces of the space station.
While Worf and Dax babysit Yoshi and fret about Worf's fitness to become a father (again), Miles and Keiko attempt to reconnect with their wild child. They create a planetary environment for her on a holodeck, allowing her to sleep in a tree and hide toys behind rocks, but though she learns their names and plays ball with them, she becomes highly agitated and asks to go home, drawing an anthropomorphized picture of the planet. They take her to their quarters and show her her old things, but Molly's only interest is in a photo of the planet; that is "home" to her. The only place she's comfortable is in a holosuite simulation of the planet, and when O'Brien abruptly turns it off so that paying customers can use the holosuite, Molly goes on a rampage, attacking and biting people and smashing glasses in Quark's bar.
Odo is forced to stun and incarcerate Molly, who reacts terribly to being restrained. But Starfleet insists that she be sent away for evaluation, and Sisko warns O'Brien that he has no choice but to send her away. When Keiko asks Miles what he's planning, he tells her that it would be kinder to return their daughter to the past of the planet she considers home, even if they will never see her again. They prepare to steal a runabout and are stopped by security, but Odo lets them go. They take her back, telling her they will watch her from the stars. When she steps through the portal, however, the adult Molly sees the child Molly, who has only just gotten lost in the past; she sends the girl through to her mother and father, then vanishes herself.
Miles tells Keiko that the recalibration didn't hold, and sent the adult Molly back to the original point where young Molly was lost. The little girl asks whether she can see that nice lady again, and draws a picture of the landscape which is virtually identical to the one her adult self drew. Miles tells Keiko that Sisko has agreed to represent him at the review board, and Worf returns a slightly banged-up but happy Yoshi while Dax notes her approval of his parenting skills.
This was one of the worst-written episodes of Deep Space Nine ever, and it's a good thing that the entire cast can act or it would have been intolerable. Keiko is intolerable anyway - does she EVER do anything other than nag, whine, cry, and prod? Her first several lines were about how Miles has gotten fat in her absence, how she hates the cat, and how many chores they have to get done for the picnic. No wonder Miles generally prefers Julian's company: I'd prefer celibacy to this.
We got a few touching moments of Kira bonding with the baby she carried but never gets to see anymore, plus her confession to Odo that she'd like to have a child one day; I'm not sure how I feel about that, since I hate the fact that maternal instincts seem to be a prerequisite for all women on television, but Odo's uncertain reaction to his lover's revelation was very interesting. Worf really was cute with Yoshi, but the whole subplot just served as a reminder of what a horrible father he has been to Alexander; I understand the series doesn't have the budget to show the kid often, but Worf never even mentions him, and only made passing reference to him in his angst about having babies with Jadzia, whose own brags about having had nine kids over her lifetimes didn't seem to match up with her general disinterest in Yoshi.
None of these parenting foibles, however, come close to the appalling decision by the O'Briens to abandon their daughter to a lifetime without companionship because it's the most convenient option. At the beginning of the episode, Miles said he'd demand reassignment if the war threatened to separate him from his family again: if he could do that, why in hell couldn't he have demanded reassignment to wherever Starfleet was planning to send Molly for testing, or stolen a runabout and taken the whole family to live someplace open and green? The decision to plunk her back in the past seemed like the ultimate case of discarding an inconvenient child; I wonder whether it would put a new spin on the abortion debate if abandoning a child to the apes were a real option. The fact that Molly was clothed and semi-groomed when they found her indicates that she must have found some sort of connection in the past, but she was obviously lonely if she reconnected with her parents so quickly.
The construction of this part of the story was perfectly dreadful, and served to make everyone involved look bad. Sisko should be ashamed of himself for failing to support O'Brien, Keiko should be ashamed of herself for not forcing Miles to think of other options, Miles should be ashamed of himself for not talking to his friends, with all their parenting interest, about helping him find another way. It detracted from the Guardian of Forever-type portal and the terrific performances by both young Mollys.
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