In DS9 "Visionary" O'Brien time travels 5 hours into the future because of a quantum singularity in a cloaked Warbird orbiting DS9.

I just watched the episode and am really confused.

Here's the facts as I see them:

  1. O'Brien was traveling into the future in five hour intervals.
  2. It was only him and nobody else was experiencing this.
  3. Somehow they were able to control it.
  4. Once he got into the future the last time radiation in his body stopped him from coming back.
  5. All of this had to do a quantum singularity in the warp core of the Warbird.

I really want to understand at least the STU theory of how this worked exactly. What was the mechanism behind all of this including all five things I listed above? As a side note depending on your answer, why couldn't they develop a time machine at this point using this technology?

  • 1
    Good question --- especially about whether or not the phenomenon can be tamed into a viable time machine (in-universe of course).
    – Praxis
    Jun 10, 2015 at 1:01
  • +2 -2 in voting, interesting. @Praxis I guess not everyone felt it was a good question.
    – JMFB
    Jun 11, 2015 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


From the Memory Alpha article on the episode:

Commander Sisko tells [O'Brien] that one of the plasma conduits blew out while he was attempting to re-route a phase inducer. Bashir tells him that he has a mild case of radiation poisoning, before injecting him with a dose of hyronalin to counter the effects...

Dax theorizes that the ionizing radiation he was exposed to earlier may have something to do with [his time travel]...

Bashir theorizes that the singularity is attracted to the delta series radioisotopes in O'Brien's body, effectively pulling him along like a magnet. And if that's the case, he may have a cure for it, but it's going to take time...

So, the quantum singularity in the Romulan warp core was pulling O'Brien through time via an interaction with the radiation he was accidentally exposed to. The staff was able to control the travel by moderating O'Brien's radiation levels. An extra dose of radiation allowed him to make his last jump, but:

[Bashir] explains to [O'Brien] that the [radiation dosing] device is already calibrated for the return trip so all he has to do it press it again to return to the present. Bashir warns him that he cannot wait too long or his body will fail due to severe radiation poisoning.

Having made his jump, and with events proceeding to a fatal conclusion,

The future O'Brien realizes the orbiting quantum singularity was the power source of the Romulan ship and tells O'Brien to go back and stop it. But he can't. The radiation poisoning has taken its toll on his body and he would die if he did. Instead he takes off the device and hands it to future O'Brien, convincing him to go back in his place.

As for creating a time machine of this phenomenon, there are some in-universe barriers:

  1. The radiation dose needed for a jump of less than a day was fatal without immediate treatment. This reduces the applications considerably.
  2. One would have to have access to a quantum singularity. Fine for the Romulans, no one else has been shown using that technology.
  3. One would have to be able to simulate O'Brien's accident closely enough to replicate the effect. This could involve a lot of trial and error.
  4. There are many other paths to time travel in the Star Trek universe. The slingshot effect may or may not be possible, if not practical, for anyone with warp drive. Someone determined to time travel would probably seek a method which doesn't involve radiation poisoning.
  • 1
    “Someone determined to time travel would probably seek a method which doesn't involve radiation poisoning.” — Frankly, this is just wild speculation. Jun 10, 2015 at 11:00
  • 2
    I suppose, given a limitless supply of test subjects who you don't mind risking / are willing to kill before they can meet themselves / trust to pass meaningful data about the amount of time they traveled / trust not to have their future self pass deleterious information back, the radiation poisoning may not be a practical barrier...
    – Politank-Z
    Jun 10, 2015 at 13:09
  • 2
    Exactly! Simple! Jun 10, 2015 at 13:34
  • So what you're saying is that exposure to radiation made O'Brien different because of "delta series radioisotopes." What are those exactly? Do they bind to his cells somehow? Is it in every cell in his body? Is this more of a molecular issue? I'd appreciate it if you could expand on this concept a bit more. I understand physics and chemistry so be as technical as you want. I don't see the quantum singularity or the radiation poisoning as a barrier. It doesn't have to be the federation developing the technology, the Ferengi for example could do it. But I like your answer w/further explanation
    – JMFB
    Jun 11, 2015 at 18:10
  • 1
    I have that literature right next to my Heisenberg Compensator patent application. Unfortunately, those are stuck in an accidental temporal causality loop en route from my former residence. Hopefully, the movers can pass a clue to their future selves soon relative to our time line, and I'll get back to you.
    – Politank-Z
    Jun 11, 2015 at 22:04

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