The reason for this hedging introduction is that this week’s episode, “Children of Time,” raises some pretty heady issues. It’s not a great episode overall -- it’s a bit sleepy, but probably a necessary slow down in the inevitable ramping up to the Dominion War -- but the questions it poses are the big ones. In essence, we’re talking about the rights of living, thinking beings to exist. Do the unborn have intrinsic rights, and if so, do they trump the rights of people who already exist? You might also recognize this as the signature issue of our time and number one on any “Will There Be a Second Civil War?” listicle out there.
On the way back from a recon mission in the Gamma Quadrant (As a quick aside, this will be the final foray into the Gamma Quadrant until the series finale, for reasons that will soon become apparent.), the Defiant encounters a planet with life readings that’s surrounded by a weird energy field. On the way in, Kira gets shocked by the console, but otherwise appears fine. Once inside the field, the crew are greeted by people claiming to be descended from the shipwreck that will happen in a few days. 8,000 people who exist solely because the Defiant will crash on its way out of the energy field.
These descendants include a human/Trill (and presumably Klingon) hybrid line of Daxes who have been passing the symbiont down along the family line, as well as a whole mess of Bashirs and O’Briens. The “Klingons” are more of a cultural signifier. Though many of them have Worf’s blood, not all of them do. They live out in the wilderness as “warriors” (although who they’re making war on is unclear) according to Worf’s teachings. For the most part, though, this is a thriving agrarian community who owes its existence to a simple screw-up.
And Kira’s death. Yeah, that momentary zap basically ends up killing her when she goes through the energy field the second time. When she arrives on this new planet, Gaia, she’s greeted by an old friend. Odo is still alive and kicking -- Founders seem like they’re basically unaging -- and he is absolutely thrilled to see her. While our Odo is incapacitated in his liquid state, this Odo has a mastery of shapeshifting that has extended to his physical form, making a much more nuanced approximation of a human face. He’s also much more emotionally available, telling Kira he loves her as the second sentence out of his mouth.
Kira’s having a little bit of difficulty herself. She recently broke up with Shakaar, because they asked the Prophets if they were supposed to be together and the Prophets said no. That’s Kira’s commitment to destiny. So, when the Dax descendant, Yedrin, comes up with the plan to create a quantum duplicate of the ship, thereby allowing the crash to happen and the crew to go safely home, it doesn’t sit well with her. This makes perfect sense for the deeply religious Kira. Her entire faith is based on what the Prophets have seen (and in her defense, the Prophets are real aliens who perceive time differently than we do). So, this having your cake and eating it too situation isn’t going to fly. Also, what’s it with me and cake this week?
The quantum duplicate plan turns out to have been a ruse, but the Defiant crew eventually decides that they have to crash. They can’t allow these people to die -- or, more accurately, never get to exist -- based on a desire to get home. Kira is not exactly eager to die, but this is a woman who made her peace with mortality before we ever met her. She knows that she is dying as part of the plan the Prophets laid out for her, and she is content.
As the crew gets ready to go through the barrier and be flung 200 years back in time, the ship abruptly changes course. It’s been sabotaged. While Sisko believes it was Yedrin Dax, our Odo reveals the truth to Kira. It was Future Odo, who linked with our Odo to give him the skinny. Odo’s love for Kira was such that he would allow those people to cease to exist -- and he is included in that -- so that Kira might live. I’m not sure where I stand there. It doesn’t seem like Odo, but then, it doesn’t seem like our Odo. For an Odo who has been regretting conversations never had for two centuries, maybe it works better.
The thornier question is what right do these people have to existence? The crew eventually decides that they have the right to exist, which is similar to the modern debate over abortion. It should be noted, though, that not even the most ardent pro-lifer truly believes in a right to exist for all people. Right now, every person on the planet is carrying within them a kidney, liver, or even just blood that will save a life. Yet we are not compelled to donate it. We can’t even harvest useful organs and tissues from corpses without consent, and there is not a single politician to my knowledge making the argument that we should be allowed to. This appears to place the argument between the differing values of potential life versus actual life squarely in favor of potential, at least for a significant portion of the electorate.
My question would be why? Sisko says he would never ask Kira to die so that 8,000 or 8 million could live, and he’s right. It’s her choice that can’t be overridden. But in this case, we’re not even talking about killing people. We’re talking about collapsing a timeline that would not exist but for an error; however, they are not mere potential life, either. These are people who have lives and memories, but cannot live without a hefty sacrifice.
The people vanish due to the actions of one being. It would seem that love can override belief, can override principle. The people of Gaia were only tethered to reality by the most tenuous of threads, and Odo was willing to cut it. Sounds like he really is a Founder after all.
Next up: Eddington is really into Bon Jovi.