Synopsis: A Romulan delegation arrives on the station demanding promised intelligence on the Dominion, and O’Brien begins jumping forward a few hours in time. During one such jump, he witnesses the destruction of the station, and must figure out how to prevent it — even as the phenomenon threatens to kill him.
This episode is one of those ones that’s just…thoroughly fine, for me.
I will say that I am generally a sucker for a “character travels through time, gets a glimpse of A Terrible Future, and must prevent it coming to pass” story. And this is a fun twist on that, where O’Brien isn’t traveling months or years into the future, but a few hours.
Part of my “this is extremely Okay” reaction is definitely that the A plot, at least, feels very generic — this could have been a story about just about any character from just about any Trek series. This was a point of dissatisfaction for Ira Steven Behr, as well, who said that they typically tried to tell stories that were more specific to DS9 and its characters. (The B plot, at least is a bit better in this regard.)
That’s not to say this episode is bad! It’s a cool concept, the pacing is great, and it uses the characters well. Just not as memorable or satisfying, for me, as some other episodes.
The ending is…unsettling? Perhaps disproportionately so — I mean, it’s not like this isn’t the “real” O’Brien, it’s just the O’Brien of a few hours into his own future. I suppose, on consideration, it’s a twist on another sci-fi(/horror) cliche, “the person who went out there [space, the future, etc.] is not the person who came back”, and raises the question of what makes someone “the same” — an O’Brien from ten years into a future that he’s trying to prevent coming to pass replacing his present self is much more obviously not the same person, I think, but when that future is just a few hours? A few minutes?
I mean, the show clearly comes down on the “it is actually the same person” side, since the issue is never mentioned again.
The rather less generic B plot
I mentioned at the beginning of the season that it seemed odd, to me, that the Federation would’ve gone to the Romulans for cloaking technology. Their relations with the Klingons seemed at least slightly stronger than with the Romulans — not to mention that secrecy and privacy don’t appear to be as fundamental to Klingon culture as to Romulan — so I feel like it would’ve made a bit more sense for it to be the Klingons they worked with on cloaking technology than the Romulans. Especially once they decided not to keep the character of Subcommander T’Rul, the Romulan officer who was initially assigned to operate the cloaking device on Defiant.
(That said, Sisko also says at the beginning of the season that Defiant was originally intended for fighting the Borg; now that Picard has established a revulsion of synthetic life and the Borg as a part of Romulan culture and tradition, it actually does make a little more sense that they might be willing to share cloaking technology with the Federation in that context.)
Also, Kira assuring Sisko that she’ll be calm and diplomatic, followed by a cut to her shouting angrily at the Romulans, is one of the show’s best gags. Right up there with the underrated gag in “Rivals” where Kira loftily declares that a person makes their own luck in life, then promptly trips and falls, IMO; Kira is really underutilized as an occasional comic character.
A few other things I liked
- Everything about the scene where O’Brien and Bashir trying to explain darts to Quark was delightful, including the fact that, let’s be real, they just wanted the darts to be closer to the beer.
- Also delightful: Quark taking it completely in stride and calmly excusing himself when, in the middle of talking to O’Brien, a second O’Brien suddenly shows up across the way.
- Similarly, Bashir’s total calm when, with one O’Brien dead on a table in the Infirmary, another shows up suddenly.
- Pretty much all Romulans for secrets and gossip. They’re not quite as culturally horny as the Cardassians, but they hold their own.
- Okay, I remain skeptical of Odo’s capacity to be truly horny, but he is definitely emotionally horny for Kira.