The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S6E24)’

“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.”
    -- Lt. Commander Worf

I had an elaborate reasoning behind why this episode was created. I believed it was because in season one’s “Battle Lines,” Kai Opaka handed Molly O’Brien a piece of jewelry before heading into the Gamma Quadrant to minister to Mike from Breaking Bad. The scene is played with such portent that the creators were telegraphing that this piece of jewelry would play an important part in the story.

I then believed that the writers had reached the end of season six, knew they had no time for another plot in season seven, and so decided to wrap up the story here. That way, the significance of the jewelry was just so that Keiko would be able to recognize a grown-up version of her daughter. This all hinged on my forgetting precisely what that piece of jewelry was. In “Battle Lines,” it’s a necklace. In this week’s episode, it’s a bracelet.

Yeah, that means that Opaka’s gift of the necklace never means anything important for subsequent plot. It’s intended to show that on some level, she’s aware that she will never return from the Gamma Quadrant. The gift then becomes a chilling awareness of her own destiny, rather than some hook left by the writers to eventually hang a story on. I’ve watched the entire series more than once, and yet all this time, I had assumed that my original interpretation was the correct one, that this episode was an eleventh-hour attempt to tie up a loose end barely anyone remembered.

Because, to be honest, there’s not a whole lot of other good reasons this episode should exist. It’s not terrible like “Profit and Lace” is. It’s just kind of there, serving only to remind us that, yes, Chief O’Brien has a family.

Remember them? Keiko is barely in the back half of the series, and this is her last appearance until the series finale. While I singled out the Keiko/Miles relationship for praise in the early going for its realism and attempt to show what happens after happily ever after, some of the reason for that was because I was desperately searching for something to hold onto. As much as I love this series, the bulk of that first season is pretty dire. By the time the rest of the plots ramp up into motion, there’s not much space for a married couple’s minor difficulties in adjusting to new circumstances. The last thing the show needs is a Jem’Hadar wandering into the middle of a petty domestic squabble.

In many ways, this hour is a throwback to that first season. It’s better than a lot of what was there, but it fundamentally feels like an episode from early in the show’s run. Basically, on a family picnic, Molly O’Brien accidentally finds a time gateway and gets thrown three hundred years into the past. Okay, it sounds a little silly when you just come right out and say it like that. Anyway, O’Brien uses some transporter magic and gets her back. Problem is, he gets her about ten years too late. Eight-year-old Molly went in, but eighteen-year-old Molly comes back out. Her time alone has also rendered her feral. The O’Briens have to try to help her readjust to her new/old life. In a nice detail, they use her favorite doll, which has little Bajoran nose ridges. It makes me wonder if someone like Molly might grow up with a minor case of body dysmorphia, as she lacks these ridges. Also, I’m overthinking it.

The plot is very similar to the largely forgotten 1984 film Iceman, down to the tiny vivarium they create in a cargo bay for Molly to live in. Incidentally, the only good impression I can do is Charlie from that movie, which has to rank as my most useless skill. Keiko and Miles try to reach Molly, but she’s too damaged. Eventually, she flips out, trashes Quark’s and stabs a Tarkalean, leaving the O’Briens with the only action loving parents can: They have to take her home. Odo unexpectedly allows them to go, despite the Tarkalean pressing charges, but it makes good sense -- Odo is all about justice, not the law. There was no intent behind Molly’s attack, and any punishment will be out of proportion.

The O’Briens send her through the time portal, but because time travel is a fickle mistress, Molly finds the young version of herself on the other side, moments after she fell in. The older Molly sends herself back out, and all’s well that ends well.

What makes this episode worthwhile to me is its b-plot. While the O’Briens are with Molly, they need someone to look after Kirayoshi, their infant son. While several crewmembers (including his beloved Auntie Nerys) take turns, the one who shows, by far, the most interest is Worf. He has decided that Dax views him as a poor father -- not without justification, which he owns -- and he will prove it by looking after the baby.

This is some of Michael Dorn’s most appealing work. There’s an underlying core of sweetness and gentleness to the Klingon that only appears in fits and starts. Though he is attempting to prove himself, he exhibits an undeniable affection for the little boy, no doubt magnified by his respect for the Chief and his long involvement with the O’Brien family. After all, Worf delivered Molly.

Worf even attempts to hone Yoshi’s reflexes with a Klingon game, and is genuinely tickled when Dax overhears Yoshi muttering the chant that goes along with the exercise. This episode continues the thread first explored in “Sons and Daughters,” that Worf is a good man but a bad father. Here, he takes positive steps to become a good father, all in service to the future he envisions with Dax.

It becomes all the more tragic in two episodes.

Next up: The Defiant gets a weird phone call.

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