Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Season 4, Episode 18

Hard Time (15 Apr. 1996)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Drama
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O'Brien tries to re-integrate to life on the station after serving 20 years in a virtual prison.



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O'Brien has been accused by the Argrathi of espionage and has already been sentenced: twenty years jail time in a artificial reality. While O'Brien felt like he was twenty years in a cell, only a couple of hours has passed. But the memories sure feel real for the chief. The crew of Deep Space Nine do their utter best to let O'Brien re-adjust to the 'new' situation, but it is clear the happening has had a major impact on him. He gets increasingly more violent to even his closest friends and refuses to go to a psychiatrist. O'Brien even purposely tells he was alone in his cell, while this clearly isn't true. Something about his cell-mate Ee'Char is bothering him immensely. The fact that a hallucinative Ee'Char hunts him is driving him mad. Written by Arnoud Tiele (

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Release Date:

15 April 1996 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


47 Reference: O'Brien opens weapons locker 47. See more »


[Kira returns with O'Brien from the Gamma Quadrant]
Chief Miles Edward O'Brien: I used to dream about this - being in a runabout, coming through the wormhole, seeing the station again. Now I keep expecting to wake up and find myself back in the cell.
Major Kira: Being in your cell was a dream. *This* is the reality.
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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Main Title
Written by Dennis McCarthy
Performed by Dennis McCarthy
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Twenty years in prison for the Chief
8 June 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

As this episode starts Chief O'Brien is being released from an alien prison after serving twenty years for espionage. As he is taken from his cell he wakes up and learns that in reality only an hour has passed since his sentence began; it was all an implanted memory, although to the Chief it will always seem as though he served those twenty years. Not surprisingly when he gets back to DS9 he has a hard time readjusting to his old life, strangely he also keeps seeing his cell mate even though he knows he is just a figment of his imagination. After an indecent in the bar he is suspended from duty and instructed to see a counsellor until he has come to terms with what happened. The problem is he isn't just dealing with twenty years away, he is also effected by the guilt of what he did to his cell mate even though he knows that in reality the memories are false. He also knows the memories are based on his own personality so the things he remembers are what he would have done if he'd really been there. Eventually he is left contemplating suicide and tells Dr. Bashir what happened.

This episode might not have any real action scenes but it was great; Colm Meaney really shows his acting chops as the Chief, both as he readjusts to life on DS9 and, under a heavy beard, dealing with life in an alien prison. Guest star Craig Wasson also did a fine job as O'Brien's cell mate Ee'char.

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