After the unadulterated filth that was last week’s episode, practically anything would have been an improvement, but what Deep Space Nine gave us was a deeply personal, entirely human story, made possible only by this being a science fiction series, with an ending that shamelessly cheated its way into blatant sentimentality of a kind that usually destroys something like this but which, on this occasion, was whole-heartedly welcome.
This is an O’Brien story, and for the first time this season (and the penultimate time in the show), Keiko is back, with the children. It’s finally safe enough to bring them home, and to celebrate they’re all going on a picnic. All fun and games, and relaxed enjoyment. Until Molly falls through a time portal and is lost.
Yes, the ultimate parents’ nightmare. But only in a show like this can this horrible incident be turned back on itself. Molly’s gone back in time, maybe three hundred years, back to before Bajor first began colonising Golana. With O’Brien working furiously, a team including Jardzia, Bashir and Kira manage to re-energise the portal, project a transporter beam through it, lock onto Molly’s DNA and retrieve her.
Except that she’s ten years older, and feral.
Michelle Krusiec guests as the older Molly, and is quite simply brilliant. Her air of barely suppressed fear, her desocialisation, her inability to accept confinement are all balanced with her slow-growing recognition of her parents, the moments of tentative connection with her childish self. There’s one moment, when she’s still suspicious, still fearful of danger, but moving towards acceptance, when Keiko brings out her silver-backed hairbrush and brushes her hair: the fascinated Molly approaches slowly, touches the hairbrush, and squats down beside Keiko, using her mother’s hand to draw the brush through her own hair, all done without words, that brought tears to my eyes.
But a space station is the wrong place to assist a wild child whose overwhelming experience, memories and sense of inner security is bound up in being on an entirely natural planetary surface. Frustrated and scared, Molly lashes out and injures someone who presses charges. She’s to be taken to a specialist facility – another confined area – away from DS9 and her parents.
And O’Brien rebels. At first, he’s going to do it alone, to shield Keiko but she, quite properly, is having none of it. So they break Molly out of the infirmary, steal a runabout and take her back to Galona, to put her back through the Portal to where she will be safe, and in her own world, even at the cost of never seeing her again.
At least, that’s the plan. Security catches them but Odo, after expressing his disappointment in the Chief – he’d always thought that O’Brien was the best bet to pull something like this off – he sends them on their way.
Back to Golana, to send older Molly back to the timepoint she was removed from. Never to see her again. In reality, cold and black-hearted that it is, that would be the long and the short of it. But this is fiction, where there is a greater leeway to order things as they should be, not as they would be, no matter how sentimental that becomes.
A bit of ex post facto gobbledegook to ‘rationalise’ it, but really it’s down to the purely human desire to please, just this once, let it all work out. Instead of sending Big Molly back to her extraction point, the portal slips back to its original setting and delivers her to Little Molly’s entry point. And Big Molly sends her younger self back into the portal, to re-emerge in her proper time, at her proper age, to be re-united with Miles and Keiko.
And, because the logic of time-travel is immutable, Big Molly erases herself from existence, or rather reaches the furthest end of her divergent and entirely personal time-loop. And although all of this ending is, as the Chief put it in a surprising expletive that, first time round, got muted in the UK, “Bollocks!” (took me by surprise that did, rather like the time some smartarse writer slipped the word ‘wanker’ into a 1975 Justice League of America issue), anyone who’s ever been any kind of parent will be too awash with endorphins to care about how cheap it is.
This was intended to be a single story episode, and a bottle one at that, but it ran out at nine minutes short, so what was a very pertinent B-story was created. By now, it was known that Terry Farrell was leaving at the end of the season, that her ending was planned, and that her relationship with Worf would be severed forever. By having her and, primarily, Worf, babysit Yoshi O’Brien, we were given not just one last close-up on their relationship but, in Worf’s striving to be a worthy father, a poignant glimpse of a future that, in so short a space of time to come, would be denied forever.
Dear me, I seem to have something in the corner of my eye… Doubtless, I will be ok for next week.