In the fourth episode of the first season of Voyager, the crew encounters the aftermath of a massive detonation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
This is a neat episode, and I’m getting the sense for how this show can work. Since they’re in a brand new quadrant in space, the Voyager crew can encounter any number of bizarre things on their way home. It’s all linked by the greater plot of their attempt to make it back to Earth in a reasonable amount of time, which allows for some serialization, but I’m guessing I’ll get more episodes like “Time and Again” than anything else.
That’s okay. The dreaded reset button that seemed to be invoked constantly throughout The Next Generation returns here, but this is one of the few examples where I felt it was actually necessary. Time travel is an integral part of the Star Trek universe, and Voyager tackles it here as a creepy rumination on the Prime Directive. What are you supposed to do if your actions could save an entire civilization from annihilation? Is that sort of “interference” ethical, or is it better to let events take their course?
It’s here that the use of non-Starfleet characters works PERFECTLY. Granted, Tom Paris was in Starfleet, but it’s emotionally significant that he was booted from it. He does not have the dedication to it that Janeway does, and thus, there’s a strong emotional conflict at the center of this story. Janeway insists that they cannot interfere in any way, and I get why she sticks to this so fiercely. This is the natural order of events for this unnamed civilization. As sad as it is that these people are all going to die in a day’s time, what happens if they save them? What if the ripple affect is so disastrous that saving them was actually a terrible thing? There’s no way to know, so Janeway has to stick to Starfleet regulations.
Tom, however, has no real need to follow this philosophy, and instead, he sees it all as an act of brutality. How can they just let these people die without telling them? This is represented through Latika, a budding reporter who is eager to take after his journalist father. This child is a manifestation of the unfairness of it all. Can Tom let this kid die just so he can say he followed the rules? Aside from Latika, there’s no significant development of any of the secondary characters. Really, this episode is a vehicle for Tom, Janeway, and Kes. (Who I’ll get to in a second.) Watching Janeway and Tom argue about this issue was satisfying because the writers did not make it easy for them at all, particularly Janeway. As they discovered the protesters and the existence of a resistance to Polaris power on this planet, Janeway was forced to re-examine how necessary it was to stay uninvolved. And truthfully, she got to the point where it was practically impossible not to say something. They were so deeply involved in this conflict that maintaining neutrality was nonsensical.
So I do understand why the episode needed to hit that reset button. Given that there was a bizarre grandfather paradox at the heart of this, Janeway’s actions were always going to reset the timeline if she succeeded. The rescue effort caused the explosion, so without a rescue, the timeline doesn’t happen. Normally, I’d complain about all the character development being wiped away, but that’s where Kes comes in. The pilot episode had contained a discussion of the long-dormant/missing mental powers of the Ocampa, and I was pleased that said abilities were addressed so early into this season. They’re in their infancy here, and Kes can only sense the presence of other life forms with concentration. There is a cool moment where she’s able to reach through one of the temporal rifts to speak with Janeway, and it makes me wonder exactly how these powers will manifest in the future. Is it just telepathy, or does she have temporal powers, too?
Anyway, this was a decent episode. It’s a good start to this season so far!
The video for “Time and Again” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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