Monday, March 13, 2017

Episode Review - Hard Time (Deep Space Nine, Season 4)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – Chief O’Brien is wrongly accused of espionage on an alien planet and is sentenced to receive the memories of twenty years of incarceration. When he returns to the station, the effects of his new experiences cause him to struggle in his attempt to get his life back together. As he wrestles with guilt over what he remembers having done, his friends and family try to support him.

O'Brien finishing his "sentence"

Score: 8/10 – This episode continues the “O’Brien must suffer” tradition that the writers seemed to have adopted. Of all of the episodes that torture our beloved Chief of Operations, this one is, in my opinion, the strongest. Colm Meaney gives a powerful performance that tests his emotional range and gives us an amazing story of how to recover from trauma. Unlike other traumatic experiences, this one exists solely in O’Brien’s mind and in some aspects was not technically “real”. This is a great way of exploring the effects of such a brutal incarceration without having the character leave the show for an extended period of time. O’Brien meets Ee’char, a mysterious alien who happens to be O’Brien’s cell mate. While Ee’char may have only existed in the Chief’s mind, he is a very real and important character who serves as an anchor for Miles. Most importantly we see an emotional roller coaster ride for Miles, ranging into the darker aspects of depression and PTSD. My one criticism for this episode is that, like so many episodes from this time, the effects of something like this are never touched on again. I would expect there to be at least a brief follow-up, but this is 1990s television, where telling a separate story each week is the norm.


Relevance - 2 points. A point scored for mentioning O’Brien’s trial on Cardassia from the episode “Tribunal”. A point for the appearance of Crewman Muniz (his second of three) which furthers his development as a key member of O’Brien’s team. Since Muniz is going to be killed in a future episode and his death will have a profound effect on O’Brien, this episode is meant to help establish Muniz as significant.

Continuity - 3 points. Nothing contradictory in this episode. Because O’Brien is sentenced and punished so quickly, all the crew can do is help him out. Everybody acts the way that they would be expected. Worf, out of honor towards his friend, plays darts with him. Quark, while appreciating that O’Brien’s life is in shambles, still focuses on his business first. Sisko shows compassion while being firm. Even Jake gets into the program by helping Miles brush up on his engineering knowledge. Molly is the typical kid who doesn’t quite get it, while Keiko shows the dutiful care of the spouse of a suffering man. Bashir, as both doctor and best friend, shows a great deal of maturity towards Miles in helping him. Most of all, Miles O’Brien acts the way our beloved Irishman would act. Story and universe continuity are also good here.

Character Development – 2 points. A good story often shows great character development, and this episode is no different. While many of the characters are shown very briefly (I think Jadzia, Quark, Worf, Jake, and Odo are only in one scene each), we see a bit of something key in almost every one. Bashir and Keiko especially get some good moments in as they bear the largest burden in helping the Chief. There is also the great character of Ee’char that adds depth to the story. It is Miles O’Brien that gets the (understandably) majority of the attention and screen time. We see him both pushed past his limits and then almost to the brink of disaster. For those of us that have felt so helpless and lost to the point where we are ready to put a phaser to our chin and end it, it hits close to home. I would argue that this is one of O’Brien’s most defining episodes, and this is Colm Meaney’s finest performance.

O'Brien wants a drink immediately.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very real thing and affects many of us in ways that are difficult for others to understand. This is shown very acutely in this episode. It drives home the depths of despair that people feel after enduring some pretty awful stuff. For those of us that have been fortunate enough to have not experienced major trauma, this gives us some insight into those of us who were not as lucky.

Bashir finds Miles at the right time

Cool Stuff – 2 points. The method that the Argrathi method of sentencing a person to experience incarceration without actually being incarcerated is intriguing to me. A point scored here. Ee’char is also a fascinating character, so I give a point for him as well.

Two friends helping O'Brien

Rank – Captain (20 points). This is one of my favourite Deep Space Nine episodes as it does a superb job of showing the struggles behind PTSD while keeping the emotion real. Kudos to Colm Meaney for his acting and Alexander Siddig for directing a fine piece of Trek. 

20 years is a long time
If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

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