Thursday, July 4, 2013

DS9: Hard Time

Obviously, on this holiday, because I'm a hermit, rather than going out among my thousands and thousands of neighbors in Los Angeles, I stayed in eating Chinese takeout and watching Star Trek. I'd expected it to be rather a pleasant evening but then I realized which episode was next in the queue: Hard Time. This episode features O'Brien being slung into a virtual prison where he makes twenty years of awful, irreversible memories (involving squirreling away food and beard growing) and then returns to DS9 a broken man.

Now, I'm not saying that this isn't a good episode. It is well-acted and well-directed. It's almost an exact parallel to The Inner Light, which I love except that it's mega-depressing. It even features the EXACT SAME ACTRESS because this chick apparently really gets around the "places that only exist in your jacked up brain."
If you see this woman, you've probably been inceptioned. 
I don't especially like Hard Time though. Actually, I kind of always change the channel when this one comes on. Actually, no, I don't like this one. It bothers me. 

Star Trek has always dealt in social issues. Always taking a compassionate (if sometimes heavy-handed) view, they have handled racism, sexism, slavery, war, homophobia, ailing elders, the sudden death of one's parents, and the stigmatization of those living with diseases like HIV/AIDS just to name a few. Hard Time feels like one of those except it isn't. It serves to make the audience angry about O'Brien's treatment but with nothing of substance to back it up. 

So it's not fun to watch because it's Star Trek (and basically episodic in nature--even though DS9 is more serialized than the others) and it's only mentioned in one or two more episodes so while you the viewer will remember it forever, O'Brien will pretty much just get over twenty years of awful circumstances, torture, and his own guilt. It makes me uncomfortable and mad but I don't have anything to really apply that to so I just stew and watch Adventure Time and try (like O'Brien) to forget all about the experience.

And here's the thing:  Do you remember Ensign Sito? 
Yep. Now ya do. She was awesome. 
She appeared in the episode where some cadets including Wesley and Not-Tom-Paris are lying about an illegal flight exercise that killed one of their friends. Later she shows up in the episode Lower Decks about a group of ensigns all trying to make lieutenant. At the end of the episode we find out that she (having been recruited for a dangerous, super-secret mission) was killed in the line of duty, turning a rompy, fun episode into one with a heartfelt, solemn finish. 

In researching Hard Time I found that its story was combined with another pitch which had been bought but not produced about Ensign Sito turning up on DS9 after having been incarcerated in a Cardassian POW camp since her departure from The Enterprise. She would have gone through much the same thing as O'Brien--only in her real life, after having actually done something tricky under orders from the Federation. The episode would have dealt with the effects of PTSD on a young servicewoman who dedicated her career and life to serving the Federation. She could have gone through all the stuff O'Brien goes through and then went off into the land of day players to further deal with it. The DS9 people apparently didn't want to rob the TNG episode of their great ending but I don't think that would've happened. I think I would've appreciated this one far more. 

Oh well, if I ever get inceptioned, I'll just try to make this episode happen in my head. 


  1. That's a shame they never made it, I quite liked Ensign Sito. I would have loved an episode where it turned out she hadn't died.

  2. I think I know what was missing in Hard Time. The big kicker was O'Brien's conclusion that he was a bad person, capable of murder, and deserved to die. The writers could have and should have turned it around on the viewer with the realization that if O'Brien is morally monstrous, so are we: Bashir needed to say not "You're a good man, Miles O'Brien" -- that is, don't learn anything from this episode -- but "Welcome to the club. We're all like that. We live with it somehow." Of course, the optimist Starfleet young doctor couldn't have said that or even thought it.

    But Garak could. At least it would be interesting for him to try.



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