The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Children of Time

When Dax insists that the Defiant surveys an interesting looking planet in the Gamma Quadrant, the entire ship becomes trapped inside the planet’s energy barrier. Upon beaming down to the surface, they are surprised to discover that the planet is inhabited – by their own descendants! Apparently, when the Defiant tries to leave the energy barrier, they will be thrown two centuries into the past, and forced to make a life for themselves on the planet. With 8000 lives dependant on keeping the timeline intact, must the Defiant crew say goodbye to any hope of ever going home?

Even though we know what the outcome must be right from the start, Children of Time is a good episode, and one that I was looking forward to. Starfleet officers eat moral dilemmas like this one for breakfast, and seeing Sisko and the others grapple with the possibility of dooming their descendants to non-existence is classic Star Trek. Here is a planet not just of random colonists in trouble – these people are the progeny of our protagonists, plus the original Odo and Dax symbiont.

The ultimate reason for the crew getting home, however, feels a little lame. After intending to put Odo’s unrequited love for Kira to rest through his relationship in A Simple Investigation, all it takes is for her to break up with Shakaar off screen, and all his old feelings are reawakened. And this is the trouble with television – the relentless need to turn every possible crush or bit of sexual tension into a proper relationship after a few seasons. Yes, I’ve no doubt that Odo deeply loved Kira – but he could still have gotten over that and moved on. I’m sure that there are readers out there, who, like me, once liked someone who didn’t return their feelings, and who spent longer than they should have pining over that person. But, you know – I never got the chance to be with them, and in time, I got over it. In fact, we both ended up in happy relationships with other people, so all’s well that ends well. But here, Odo is not only still in love with Kira, but he is willing to sacrifice 8000 people to save her – even knowing that this is not what Kira would have wanted, and that it’s surely going to sour their relationship somewhat. Yes, present Odo is innocent, and he’ll get the girl in due course anyway, but did this really have to be the reason why the Defiant made it home?

Population dynamics

Forty-eight members of the Defiant crew survived to form the basis of the Gaia colony. 200 years later, the planet boasts 8000 inhabitants, spread across several settlements. Is this likely?

Using a simple exponential population growth formula gives us an average growth rate of just under 2.6%. This is high – in comparison, Earth’s current population growth rate is about 1.1% per year – but not ridiculous. At least it doesn’t assume that all the women had to spend all of their childbearing years having one baby per year. However, a starting population of 48 is quite low.

Even though Starfleet as portrayed on screen seems quite male dominated, let’s assume a 50:50 split between males and females. We’ll assume that everyone is able to reproduce with everyone else. Monogamy is out the window, because we need to establish genetic diversity – although Dax/Worf and O’Brien/Tannenbaum are both portrayed as monogamous couples. Of course, sperm donations would enable women to bear children from men other than their partners, without having to be in a relationship with them.

Bloodlines would have to be strictly monitored – for the first generation born on the planets, you wouldn’t want siblings and half-siblings to mate. In future generations, you’d probably want to keep track of any genetic issues that might crop up.

Other points

  • Kira and Shakaar’s breakup is a real anticlimax – they essentially go the writers Prophets to see if they are destined to be together forever, and when it turns out that they aren’t, they go their separate ways. There were so many better options for ending this relationship: they weren’t happy with a long-distance relationship; they were too busy with their careers to make a go of it; things felt weird after Kira gave birth to the O’Brien baby, or maybe the relationship had simply run its course and had nowhere to go. Maybe one of them wanted more out of the relationship than the other – maybe Shakaar proposed and Kira didn’t want to marry him.
  • One from the last episode – when Worf temporarily leaves, why is Bashir made the intelligence officer? Are there really no other qualified Starfleet officers working in security or command who could take over the role?
  • We know from The Host that humans can host Trill symbionts, which at least explains how Yedrin, who must be mostly human, is able to host Dax.

Summary – Children of Time: Odo kills 8000 people.

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