the story: Molly O'Brien is lost on a planet, but when she's found again it's from ten years in the future, and time hasn't been kind to her...
what it's all about: This is one of those episodes that will probably please casual fans, a time travel plot that's as faithful to the general sci-fi origins of the franchise as you're liable to find in Deep Space Nine. It's also the only episode of two different series (this one and Next Generation, where she was born) that centers around O'Brien's daughter Molly.
There's not much sense talking about the plot of the episode. There's Starfleet failing to learn from its past again (shades of Next Generation's "The Offspring," in which Data builds himself a daughter and Starfleet wants to take her from him, where Starfleet apparently has failed to learn from the earlier "The Measure of a Man," which Starfleet still hasn't learned from by the time of Voyager's "Author, Author"), trying to step in where it shouldn't be meddling.
So anyway, it's the Molly O'Brien episode. Molly was literally born during the course of Next Generation ("Disaster"), and actress Hana Hatae ended up playing the role, aging with the character, straight through the final episode of Deep Space Nine. Even Naomi Wildman in Voyager was played by a couple young actresses, and artificially aged somewhere along the way, just like Alexander in Next Generation. Hatae wasn't cast to be an actor, but rather to be adorable, and she kept on being adorable in all her appearances. But she was too young even by the end to be expected to do much acting, so she was always incidental to any given story (she threw up once, off-camera, on Lwaxana Troi, "Fascination"). Until a gobbledygook plot sci-fi plot, of course.
While the older Molly in "Time's Orphan" isn't asked to do much more acting than Hatae ever did (she's feral, alas), the story is still about her, which is about good enough. It's kind of the same trick the series played with Morn earlier in the season ("Who Mourns for Morn?"), making the sixth season not just the dawn of the Dominion War, but the season the writers pulled off the impossible. Twice!
- franchise - The standalone nature and sci-fi friendly storytelling here will be ideal for casual fans.
series- Has nothing at all to do with the Dominion War.
- character - The one episode to focus on Molly!
essential- It does what it has to, which is about as perfunctory as Deep Space Nine can get.
Hana Hatae (Molly)
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)