12. “Hard Time” – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
In “Twilight”, Jonathan Archer gets cured of his ailment is not only the present but the past as well, meaning that while everything happened, it also didn’t. Resetting everything. That’s not the same for “Hard Time”. In it, Miles O’Brien is sentenced to 20 years imprisoned by an alien race. He goes through each and every day and each and every year. There’s no time travel to unwind this, there are no other-O’Brien that had to suffer, it was only this O’Brien and it really happened.
It just happened in a matter of hours, that O’Brien perceived as decades. Due to the severe emotional and psychological trauma that O’Brien is forced to undergo, for bogus reasons nonetheless, he spends his entire time following the events unsure of what’s real and what’s not. Constantly having to worry about if what’s happening is real or more of his mind playing tricks on him. His psyche is going to be messed up, no doubt about it, but it’s made worse by the fact that O’Brien had a cellmate in his imprisonment hallucination, and it was a person he grew close to. It’s also a person that he ended up murdering due to growing paranoia.
The episode is a real-life reminder of how destructive false accusations can be for those who are forced to go through them. For O’Brien, he lost years, is forced to deal with the hallucinations of his experience, and carries around 20 years of memories that never really happened. It caused him to suffer forms of severe depression that any other man may have succumbed to. It’s a very real-world issue that haunts the lives of any and every person who has ever been falsely accused. Nothing is more horrifying than something that can really happen.