WARNING: This article contains information about DS9's "Visionary". Those still unaware of this information should refrain from jumping to the end -- or, better yet, reading further.
In brief: A few nitpicks, but on the whole a nice piece of work -- good and meaty.
Brief summary: A freak accident sets O'Brien "time-shifting", where he witnesses his own death and the destruction of the station -- leaving him to try to change both.
Poor O'Brien. He ends up having all sorts of strange science-fiction plots done to him. First "Whispers" last season (spoilers avoided in case you haven't seen it), then "Visionary" ... the guy needs to retire.:-)
While I have a few small nitpicks about the show, primarily ones of characterization, I have to say that "Visionary" may just be the best thing DS9 has done this season. We had lots of good character interplay, a real threat on several levels, some old debates from previous stories coming back to haunt our heroes, and a solid performance from Colm Meaney.
I particularly appreciated the fact that O'Brien's time-shifting started out as merely annoying before showing real threats to the character. Had O'Brien started out by seeing his own death or that of the station, it would probably have seemed a bit too convenient -- but instead, we started out with him seeing an innocuous conversation with Quark. Even the second time around, he didn't see a huge threat; he saw a vicious bar brawl, yes, but that's all. It wasn't until the later jumps that O'Brien started seeing real worries -- and while that is in many ways as equally coincidental as seeing them straight off, it feels a lot less so while watching, since the danger is gently ramping itself up. [It's also in many ways a very good thing that only one of the jeopardy situations O'Brien found himself in was something aimed directly at the station, namely the final attack. More than one would have been overkill -- but one medical problem and one accident seem a bit more plausible.]
It's curious that no one worried about the usual "danger to the timeline" of altering the future. Granted, that future hasn't actually happened yet -- and O'Brien changed things every time simply by being there, which was a major plus [rather Heisenberg-like, I think; by observing the system you alter it without intending to] -- but even so, I'd have thought *someone* might show a little concern. Then again, perhaps everyone shares O'Brien's distaste for temporal mechanics. I can't fault 'em for that. :-)
The Romulan involvement in the show was also fairly well done [as opposed to the Klingons, which were written fine but acted miserably]. Given the cloaking device on the Defiant, it makes sense that the other side of the bargain would have to be played out eventually; and their suspicions about Kira's actions and Odo's motivations in "The Search" are extremely understandable given the circumstances, so some of their hostility was inevitable. (I don't buy their claim about the Dominion being the biggest threat to the quadrant, given the Borg, but I don't have to; as long as they believe it to be true, their actions are generally pretty sensible.) Their plans do seem a bit on the extreme side, but since they're not getting anything out of the wormhole anyway, it's not unlikely that they had other reasons for wanting the wormhole gone as well.
The execution of the show was rather neatly done, and reminded me in some ways of TNG's "Cause and Effect". In C&E, the teaser and acts one, two, and four all ended with the same threat. Here, every act except the last one (plus the teaser) ended with a time-shift. While those are perhaps obvious places to break the story, it also lets the tension build up extremely well, to the point where I actually found myself muttering "ohhhhh dear" during the commercials -- something I haven't done all that much where Trek is concerned. [Actually, I said something a bit stronger -- but hey, this is a family show.]
I'm a trifle surprised that no one on the station considered the possibility that the quantum singularity they were trying to locate might be a cloaked Warbird; I didn't think of it myself, but I was a bit brain-fried that night (and several people I know did think of it almost as soon as it was first found), and you'd think that someone there might have knowledge of Romulan power sources. (Then again, it seemed no one on the Enterprise knew until "Face of the Enemy", so I suppose it's not all that much of a stretch.)
Then, we have the final vision of O'Brien's, namely the destruction of DS9 with most hands aboard. "Brr" is a good word that comes to mind here; it seemed reminiscent of Sisko's escape from the Saratoga back in "Emissary", only in many ways more hurried and more eerie -- here, we had no idea what was causing it. All we saw was the runabout's point of view, leaving the station behind in a big hurry and seeing it go up in a puff of effects. That was a particularly striking scene, I thought, especially with the future O'Brien's urgency in warning the "normal" O'Brien to go back and stop whatever caused this. Nicely done.
I also thought it took a fair amount of guts to actually carry off the switch of O'Briens. Although the practical effect, as Bashir pointed out, is really only that this Miles has a few extra memories, it's a somewhat odd situation, and I wonder if we'll ever see reference to it again. (Depending on how long it takes O'Brien to "settle in" to his past self's life, I wonder if he'll think Keiko is really "the other Miles O'Brien"'s wife and not his.)
Then, we have the nitpicks. They're not all that substantial, but they're there. So:
1) Odo seemed a bit mis-scripted in his discussion of the Klingons with Sisko. Yes, I can see him noting that he's good. I can see him agreeing when someone else asks if he did something just to remind them how good he is. I cannot, however, see him bluntly pointing out that he's doing this to brag. Particularly given the time-critical situation, that's not Odo's style.
2) Kira's questions about the station's destruction were way too didactic. She gets to the point; she doesn't explain things to people she knows already know them. The "which might be evidence of XYZ" clauses were asides to us, not statements to her comrades, and ones I don't think were necessary.
3) Lastly, I'm extremely puzzled by the final scene with Bashir and O'Brien. Given that (1) it's almost undoubtedly been more than a few hours since O'Brien time-shifted back to the past, (2) O'Brien was asleep in the future the regular O'Brien saw, and (3) O'Brien manifestly changed the future with his actions, I can't see O'Brien's predictions of the dart game and the Dabo wheel making the slightest bit of sense. I'm pretty much going to overlook it, since it was a priceless scene anyway, but I'm very confused.
[I just remembered another one. Given that there's a Warbird parked outside, is taking the Romulans to a transporter room at the end really wise? Seems they'd have to drop shields...]
Countering these nitpicks, though, were a lot of extremely well done scenes in almost every other situation. Some were unsettlingly commonplace, such as Bashir and O'Brien talking over the corpse of ... er ... O'Brien; and some were just hugely entertaining, such as Odo's defensive claim that "I always investigate Quark!" Bashir and O'Brien seem to almost be becoming friends, in particular, and their retorts back and forth to each other were vastly entertaining. I particularly liked Bashir's crack about O'Brien's fantasy life, and "well, it could have been worse; it could have been me." :-)
Now, for some short takes:
-- When the Romulans professed confusion about how Odo could be a changeling but not a Founder, my first thought was to ask them, "You're both Romulans. So, that means you're both privy to all of Tal Shiar policy, yes?"
-- It was a little jarring to think of Klingon spies. Given that Klingons in general seem to be about as subtle as a brick through a glass window [I've heard that phrase somewhere recently :-) ], they don't seem like good spies. I suppose that can work in their favor.
That about covers it. So, to sum up:
Writing: A solid premise, the characters were generally both intelligent and in character (with one or two small exceptions), and everything fits together fairly well.
Directing: Solid. The transitions in particular were almost at "All Good Things" level, and that's not easy.
Acting: Standout work from Meaney and Siddig el Fadil, and strong stuff from everyone else (save the guest stars).
OVERALL: Call it a 9.5. Nice way to ease into reruns.
NEXT WEEK: A rerun sequence, starting with "The Search". See you in a few weeks.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"I *HATE* temporal mechanics!"