I really think "Hard Time" is great. As has been said, Colm Meaney puts on a fantastic performance. And I agree with MrBorg
: Ee'Char's death scene is messed up. (According to MA, that scene was edited to remove the sound of bones cracking when it aired in the UK.)
I'm not sure this episode is really that incompatible with Roddenberry's "new evolved humans." First of all, Bashir argues quite eloquently that O'Brien's remorse is evidence itself of his being one of those "new evolved humans."
Furthermore, O'Brien himself may believe that he briefly turned into an animal because of his own lack of restraint, but for all we know, his killing of Ee'Char could very well have been "scripted" by his captors. In which case the episode isn't really about how O'Brien dealt with being in the cell, but about how O'Brien and his friends react
to his memories thereof. And those reactions are definitely in line with Roddenberry's rules. No one belittles the chief for being "weak." No one says he should try to "tough it out." Everyone clearly has O'Brien's best interests at heart. Compare that to how America treats many of its veterans today.
Also, I'm not sure that this episode's apparent lack of explicit follow up is really that much of a drawback.
You can't drive a character to the brink of suicide in one episode and then act like none of it ever happened the next week. This is especially egregious because this is DS9, the one Star Trek show that's notable for its character development. Yet O'Brien forgets all about the 20 years of hell he endures here and is back playing dress-up in the holosuite in no time.
Not to argue semantics with you here, TheGodBen
, but if you look at the next few episodes, this actually doesn't happen.
Spoilers ahead for those who care...
Now, certainly today, with our limited understandings of neuropsychology and the neurocognitive effects of trauma, 12 weeks would hardly be enough recovery time for someone in O'Brien's position. But 400 years from now? Maybe things'll be different.
And besides, there are lots of things in Star Trek that we know happen but that aren't discussed because they wouldn't make interesting/relevant stories. Or because there isn't time. Sisko's conversations with Starfleet Command in "In The Pale Moonlight," for example. Or Jake continuing in Mrs. O'Brien's class in the first two seasons. We never see it happen, but we know he's still going. Or Thomas Riker. We know he's still out there, and certainly there are stories to tell about him, just as there surely are about O'Brien's continued recovery. But the writers have an ensemble of characters, and looking at the episodes coming up after this, I'm really glad attention was paid to them, too.
Would a follow up to this episode have been good? Almost definitely. But the writers would have had to find a new angle to it. Perhaps an episode that chronicles O'Brien's post-Ee'Char counseling sessions, but the focus moves to the counselor, who develops some issue of his own, et cetera, et cetera...? Would've made clear that O'Brien was still recovering while allowing a new story to be told.
But what episode would we axe or overhaul to fit in this new storyline?
My point is that there is a glut of really solid episodes coming down the pipe, and even the weak ones are not necessarily ones that I would have wanted retooled as "Hard Time, Part 2."
(Now, if someone wanted to write a novel about this stuff... :-D)
My apologies for the long post. I am procrastinating.