The following is a SPOILER Review. I tell you pretty much everything that happened in the episode, so if you want to be surprised when you finally see it, leave now. Otherwise, welcome aboard, pull up some shuttle debris and enjoy the ride.
I rate each episode based on how much I enjoyed it. I don't claim to be accurate or objective. But with luck, you'll enjoy yourself along the way.
So kick back and roast up a s'more. You may want to hit the bathroom first, because this is a long one. Fatherly Uncle Jim's got a story for ya, which may or may not resemble the episode that actually aired.
Voyager gets the snot kicked out of it retroactively. Ironically, everyone but Harry suffers this time out.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
The Year of Hell begins, not with a bang, but with a fashion show. [As your unofficial online UPN affiliate, it's only fair to fill you in one what I saw.]
Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan host the evening's ordeal from the bridge of Voyager, decked out in 20th-century formalwear. Kate, seated, wears a crimson number, tasteful necklace, and earrings her previous hairstyle would have obscured. Her ponytail is gone, replaced by a less-than-shoulder-length number that, while quite attractive, is far less hair than this reviewer would prefer. Sigh. Jeri, standing behind her wearing a nice black outfit, has her hair down, flowing about her shoulders, smiling as Seven of Nine has not yet learned to. Both, naturally, look terrific, and they add a touch of elegance to an evening in which elegance must take a backseat to survival for the gallant crew.
When Jeri Ryan says "resistance is futile," her smile makes you look forward to the experience.
Ahem. And so, on with the show.
* * *
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
We see a thoroughly modern city, the apex of environmentally-conscious urban planning. The sky is clear, the birds are singing, the non-polluting mass transit system hums on wings of superconductive efficiency. It's not a bad place to call home. It's a nice aerial view, and the eye-in-the-sky reporter reports lazily that there are no traffic jams because this is just that kind of place to live. Never rains till after sundown, by 8 the morning fog has flown, the walkways shovel themselves in winter.
Camelot never had it so good.
Lucy is in the sky with diamonds.
A large, hovering vessel, crystalline, aqua, and beautiful, watches the serene prodigy of modern peaceful living.
A glow emanates from the base of the vessel. It spits out a beam of brilliant hue, white and violet and purest blue, through the diamond, where it is focused and intensified still further. It aims downward to the surface of the planet.
The city glows. Fog spreads.
And where the mist clears, we see not a city on a river teeming with life--but a virgin wilderness, untouched by man (or whichever race was there). All traces of civilization have been wiped away as if they had never existed.
The Sierra Club promptly puts in a call to Paramount to see if that thing is for rent.
Aboard, we assume, the vessel that did the wilderness reclamation project, an alien font on a sophisticated computer describes the significance of the graphic above it.
A white alien male with dark hair, a distinctly military uniform, black leather gloves (yes, they fit) and ugly-ass shoes, and a rich baritone voice, stands at the terminal. (Could it be? The Real Killers are aliens!) He announces the results to his colleagues on the ship. "Temporal incursion is complete. All organisms and manmade objects have been eradicated."
Dang. And you thought Daylight Savings Time was disruptive.
Another, similarly attired male sits on what can only be the captain's chair. He's familiar to us, somehow; he could be the evil twin of the President of the Federation in STVI: The Undiscovered Country. Only with less hair and no Yoko Ono glasses.
"Probe the continuum," the Fearless Leader commands. "Has our target event been achieved?"
The first man consults the computer terminal. "Negative. Negative target event." The frustration in his voice is evident. "I don't understand, sir. We spent months making these calculations."
Apparently, they're using the Bulk Eraser of Time for a specific reason--and it didn't work.
"Time is patient...so we must be patient with it," says Fearless Leader. "Eradicating a single Zahl colony wasn't enough for a total restoration."
Restoration of what?
"We have to work on a larger scale," Fearless Leader announces. "Take us to the Zahl homeworld. Prepare a new set of calculations. We must erase the entire species from time--every life-form, every molecule."
I thought only the Q Continuum did that....
Now, first appearances may be deceiving, but when a militant band of species-annihilators is this intent on taking on the Zahl...my instinct is to root for the Zahl.
* * *
We get a nearly three-dimensional view of the galaxy. From this perspective, it's quite impressive.
"Space, the great unknown," intones Janeway with opening-credits formality. "Only now we're going to know it a little better."
Well, it's not exactly "These are the voyages...to boldly go where no one has gone before," but it's better than nothing.
"Harry?" the still-unseen Janeway commands.
The galaxy...falls away. We see more of it. Then we see the whole of it--the brilliant swirling mass of stars. Then the galaxy tilts on a horizontal axis. Then it gets overlaid with computer graphics measuring, delineating, highlighting, from entire systems down to a single point on the x-y-z axis. And in an infinitesimal point in an infinitesimal point in the inconceivable vastness of the galaxy...is a small sign saying "You are Here."
Janeway and Chakotay walk to the front and center of a wall-to-ceiling, wide-screen view of the immenseness of space. They're in a room of Voyager we've never seen before, and by the crowd assembled, I'd guess it's new to them as well. It's an impressive room, though--even more so than the already impressive 24th-technology Voyager possesses.
Chakotay takes over for the captain: "Before there were maps and globes, let alone radar and subspace sensors, mariners navigated by the stars. We're returning to that tried-and-true method. But this time there's a difference."
Janeway continues. "Ensign Kim and Seven of Nine have merged Starfleet and Borg ingenuity to create this new technology. And I'm sure I speak for the entire crew when I say, Thank You."
The room erupts in applause.
"Now...how the hell does it work?" asks Janeway, and the crew laughs on cue, and turns the time over to Har3ry Kim and Seven of Nine, who stand near enough together to be conjoined twins.
Seven, whom we have yet to see laugh, continues with the sober voice we've come to expect of her. "Astrometric sensors measure the radiative flux of up to three billion stars simultaneously. The computer then calculates our position relative to the center of the galaxy." Impressive....
"This mapping technology is ten times more accurate than what we've been using," Harry says proudly. "Seven, will you do the honors?" Seven touches the controls a few times.
A line wends its way from the upper-right of the screen to the lower left. "We've plotted a new course home," Harry says.
"By my estimates," Seven adds, "this trajectory will eliminate five years from your journey."
"Our journey," Neelix corrects her. He rushes over and throws an arm around the former Borg, and squeezes and pats her shoulder like a proud papa. "Nice work, Seven."
Torres notes that they're about to enter a region of space that looks packed with M-class planets.
"It does," Seven affirms. "Spatial grid 005--primary species: the Zahl." This new lab not only shows the whole of the galaxy, but it has a nice zoom-in feature. A tiny brick of space is captured and brought to the forefront, showing a few hundred star systems. They're enclosed by several blobs of transparent color. We can safely assume that the largest blob represents Zahl space.
Tuvok asks what she knows about the Zahl. "Technologically advanced but nonconfrontational," she replies. "Their Resistance Quotient is quite low."
Oh, great. Now there's a Resistance Quotient. Somehow, I imagine humanity's RQ is off the scale, second only to Species 8472. Seven hasn't said, though her very presence and cooperation suggests it.
It's a moment of celebration for the crew--a shortened journey, a cool new toy with immense practical application, the hope of a bright future. Chakotay dismisses the crew to their regular assignments...
But Doc can't let a gathering like this go without saying something.
"I'd like to say a few words if I may," Doc announces, more an indication that he's going to do so no matter what, than asking the Captain's permission. (Incidentally, the hairdo we saw on Kate seems to have extended to Janeway--gone is the ponytail! (Sniff) Janeway and Chakotay look at each other and shrug, knowing it's inevitable.
"When I was first activated on Stardate 48315, and I found myself mano a mano with the Delta Quadrant I didn't think we'd survive a week--let alone three years. There was strife. There was discord. You were all at each others' throats."
Paris and Torres look at each other and shuffle their feet, cross their arms, and try not to look obvious. Janeway and Chakotay look nauseous. Tuvok belches loudly and complains that Neelix's pleekta-rind burrito was not compatible with his Vulcan systems, and requests medical assistance. Neelix concurs, taking the hint, and suggests it could be a ship-wide medical emergency.
To no avail. Doc's on a roll.
"But over time, I've had the pleasure and pride of watching this crew learn to work together as colleagues, even friends."
"Here, here," says Paris, applauding earnestly, and the crew does its valiant best to head for the door.
No such luck.
"Who would have thought," says Doc even louder, indicating he's not even done warming up yet, "that this eclectic group of voyagers could actually become a family? Starfleet, Maquis, Klingon, Talaxian, hologram, Borg--even Mr. Paris."
It takes a few seconds for that last bit to kick in. Paris looks around to see if anyone laughs. Of course, Torres does. He looks balefully at Doc, who's too wrapped up in his oration subroutine to notice.
"Granted, we've had our share of difficulties. One might say, we've seen the best of times" (he grabs Paris' shoulder with his right hand) and the worst of times (and grabs Tuvok's shoulder with his left).
"I'd now like to recount some of those times from my unique perspective. Under the category of "Best of Times" I invite you all to recall the moment when I--
"Bridge to Captain," the intercom announces.
"Janeway here," the captain says with palpable relief."
"We're being hailed--a vessel off the port bow."
"On our way," says Chakotay a little too eagerly, catching Janeway's expression and knowing this is their chance.
All assembled (except Doc) sprint to the doorway. Neelix gives Doc a horrified look as he tries to extricate himself from his cubbyhole near the Astrometrics controls without actually touching Doc, and therefore having to talk to him. Even Janeway gives Doc a wide berth, casting "back off, speech boy" looks at him on her way out the door.
"Well, perhaps we could all reconvene later," Doc calls after them.
Like that's gonna happen. Sounds more like a threat.
All the same...poor guy.
"They're firing on us, Captain," announces Ensign Lang.
A tiny ship throws dirt clods at the ship. Voyager rumbles, but Leola Root Surprise night in the mess hall has shaken the ship more violently.
"It's a small vessel," Tuvok reports. He sounds almost bored. Doc's speech was a greater threat. "15 life-forms aboard. Low warp capacity, limited armaments. They pose no threat."
Janeway orders a channel opened. The itsy-bitsy warship is replaced by a bald, arrogant, whiny male clearly suffering from Starship envy.
"Good day, sir. Have we offended you in some way?" Janeway asks pleasantly.
"You will reverse course immediately," orders the little yapping wiener-dog of warfare. "This region is in dispute. You have no business in Krenim space."
Krenim, Krenim, Kreni--ah. We ran into that species in "Before and After," didn't we?
Nah. They were big and mean and had ships that stomped Voyager like the stage at Lord of the Dance. They couldn't possibly be related to this strutting, sputtering poodle.
Chakotay gives Janeway a quizzical look, but says nothing.
"I was under the impression we were entering Zahl territory," Janeway says, trying to hide her smirk.
"The Zahl have no legitimate claim here. They have taken what is ours," the Krenim says angrily. His voice lowers dangerously. "Reverse course...or be destroyed."
It would be a far more impressive and effective threat were the Krenim's ship larger than the average station wagon or packed more punch than New York City salsa.
Janeway looks at Tuvok, who shrugs. She returns her attention to the screen, and doesn't even bother to hide the smirk now. "With all due respect--unless you've got something a little bigger in your torpedo tubes I'm not turning around."
Chakotay does a double-take. Cap'n Kate isn't known for her crass humor. But that came perilously close to a disparaging phallic reference. He shuffles his feet and distances himself from that last comment, while trying not to laugh.
"I'm certainly willing to discuss this issue with you," she says kindly.
"No discussion! No compromise!" wails the Krenim. The signal ends.
"They are in retreat," announces Tuvok.
Yeah, that'll teach Voyager to mess with him.
"His bark's obviously worse than his bite," notes Chakotay, being overly generous to the Krenim.
"He seems rather intent," Janeway says. "Let's go to yellow alert. Maintain our course. Maybe the Zahl can give us some answers." She sits in her chair and shares a look with Chakotay.
Voyager finds itself facing two ships of equal or greater size.
Fortunately, the owners of these vessels are friendly.
"As long as you travel in Zahl territory you travel among friends," says a big, happy guy to Janeway and Chakotay and Tuvok in the Voyager conference room. "I apologize for your mishap with the Krenim."
"It was hardly traumatic. But I am curious--the Krenim claim this region as their own."
"The Krenim dominated this space many years ago. They possessed deadly weapons based on temporal science, and it kept them in power for a long time."
Now those are the Krenim we remember. So what happened? Are we in some alternate universe? Did Kes alter the future by warning Janeway and company about the Krenim six months (or so) before?
Speaking of which--why has nobody so much as said Kes' name since "The Gift"? Or mentioned that they'd been warned about the Krenim a long time back? This seems an awfully significant memory lapse.
Especially with Jennifer Lien still being listed as "also starring" on the Continuum's announcement of Voyager episodes. Would it kill them to say "Kes" one of these days? This seems an ideal story in which to do so....
But I digress.
"But a generation ago," the Zahl is saying, deftly ignoring the kvetching Review Boy in the corner, "we fought the Krenim. We defeated them and took back the planets that they had annexed, dismantled their military forces. Their ships still wander our territory making grandiose claims. Don't let them trouble you."
Comparing attitudes alone, I'd say life under the Zahl couldn't help but be better than that under the Krenim.
Janeway's way ahead of him on that score. Last time, all the Krenim managed to do was amuse her.
"Now, tell me about Voyager," urges the Zahl. "a single ship alone, half a galaxy from home. How exciting for you." His tone is sincere; he sounds almost eager to sign up for the journey himself. Janeway likes him already.
"Bridge to Captain. Sorry to interrupt but the Krenim vessel is back," says Kim over the intercom. "They're demanding to speak with you."
Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, and the Zahl enter the bridge. Perhaps I'm just inattentive, but I'm struck by how bright and shiny and impressive the bridge looks these days. The ship's in fine repair, they're among powerful and benign friends, and they've managed to cut close to fifteen years off their journey with a little help from Seven...and a former Ocampa acquaintance whose name escapes them. And their enemies of the moment are hardly worth a mention.
These would seem to be the best of times.
"Hello again," Janeway says genially to the forward viewscreen. She and the Zahl stand behind Paris' station at helm.
"You've ignored our warnings, and now you consort with our enemy," yaps the same Krenim we met earlier. The bumper sticker on the wall behind him reads "Home of the Whopper." The shelves are stocked with Krenim action figures, trinkets from a prouder time.
"Leave this space," threatens the Zahl, "or I'll seize your vessel and send you home in a cargo container." Not violent, but certainly a blow to the Krenim's pride.
"Gentlemen, please," Janeway urges, placing a hand on the Zahl's chest. "Believe me, we're not conspiring against you."
Kim picks up on something distressing, and announces that a huge spatial distortion is coming towards them. Tuvok tracks it to a ship near the Zahl homeworld--which makes the Zahl do a double-take.
So, it seems, does the Krenim, who seems as flummoxed as everyone else.
"A massive buildup of temporal energy--some kind of space-time shock wave," says Harry.
Didn't the Zahl say that the Krenim used temporal energy to wreak havoc?
I got a bad feeling about this...
Paris says engines are down because of the distortion. Janeway orders shields up, locking the ship down, and bracing for impact.
A large energy wave travels through space. It impacts with the two huge Zahl vessels.
And, like the Zahl city of the teaser, they disappear, as though they had never existed.
The wave passes through the Krenim vessel as well. But it doesn't disappear.
It just grows. And grows. And grows. The Whopper becomes a Triple Whopper.
And those torpedo tubes whose size Janeway was impugning earlier? Let's just say even Milton Berle would salute now.
Voyager gets caught in the wake of temporal distortion as well. The Zahl disappears. He's the only one to vanish...but the bright shiny bridge is now a smoking, damaged shadow of its former self. Janeway's hairdo is out of sorts. Chakotay is standing over a crewman.
"She's dead," he reports.
"Shields at 17%. The Krenim are firing again," Tuvok reports. The blasts of this new Krenim vessel do severe damage. "We're being hailed."
"We've done nothing to provoke these attacks," Janeway says.
Hey, it's the same weenie from earlier. But instead of the standing, yapping loser we saw earlier, this time his bite more than matches his bark. The Chihuahua is now a pit bull. His threats are backed up by major firepower. So, naturally, he feels no need to threaten. His tone is confident, his smug expression well-justified. He sits in a nice big animal-skin swivel chair, and he swivels with casual contempt for everyone but himself.
"Your presence in our space is provocation enough."
"We've been trying to communicate with your vessels but the only answer I get is weapons fire."
"State your identity," the Krenim says with a bored wave.
"Captain Janeway of the federation Starship..."
"--And your reason for violating our borders?" he interrupts, not really caring about the answer. He's playing with them.
"We're simply trying to get home. If you'd kindly allow us to pass through..."
"No. You will submit to the Krenim Imperium." He yawns. "I would prefer to seize your vessel before it is too badly damaged. Surrender now and I will forego the execution of your crew." That dangerous voice of the earlier, surlier version of himself is here, only it's got confidence and firepower--and apparently a lot more Krenim, if "Imperium" is any indication--to support it.
"I don't respond well to threats," Janeway says with cold fury.
"Then prepare to be boarded." The transmission ends.
Janeway's not a happy camper. "All hands," she says, about to utter the coolest word in her vocabulary.
She sags into her chair, sighs, and looks at Chakotay. "This is turning into... The week of Hell."
* * *
It would appear that the wave thingy changed the history of the last four days, so that they've been battling the Krenim all this time. No Zahl space to find refuge in. Just the Krenim.
A few differences between this and Before and After: Janeway's still alive. So is Torres. Kes isn't here, but Seven of Nine is.
But one thing is very much the same: the Krenim are butt-kickers of the first order.
Krenim torpedoes slam against Voyager. The shields are completely useless. Their maneuverability is shot.
The Krenim haven't yet learned the truth in the adage, "never mess with a redhead." In fact, if anyone's being taken to school, it's Janeway and her crew.
"I still don't understand why these torpedoes are ripping right through our shields," Chakotay says after one particularly vicious jolt.
"Their weapons are chronoton-based," reports Tuvok. "They're penetrating our shields because they're in temporal flux."
Whoa. Deja vu.
Janeway realizes they are no match for the Krenim at the moment, and orders retreat and regroup at warp six. Tuvok reports damage report at one dead, 15 wounded, main power and computer down, loss of environmental control on decks seven and eight. Kim adds that sensors are down to short range only.
Janeway has Chakotay put the ship on 24-hour tactical alert. She assigns Tuvok to analyze "whatever data we've got on those chronoton torpedoes" that don't involve Kes, and to modify their shielding accordingly. "
"When those Krenim attack again," she says with a grim glint in her eye, "I want to be ready."
The Fearless Leader of (I think it's safe to say) the Krenim sits alone in his office. He stares intently, emotionally, at a transparent pyramid, inside of which is something I can't quite identify. It looks like a vanilla bean, but that's probably not even close. (Some kind readers tell me it's a lock of hair, which makes far more sense--man, are my eyes bad.) Whatever it is, it means a great deal to him.
The subordinate whose voice was the first we heard this episode rings the doorbell, and after a moment is given permission to enter. He has good news--for them.
"Sir, you were correct. The Zahl homeworld was the focal point. Its erasure has produced a complete temporal restoration."
The Leader is stern, but not unkind. "If I told you to count the stars in the cosmos would the task ever be complete?...Our attempts may be sufficient. They may be even relatively successful. But they will never be complete. Choose your words with more precision." The subordinate apologizes, and the matter is dropped.
"What were the exact results?" the Leader asks.
"The Krenim Imperium has been restored to power. Our territory now includes 849 inhabited worlds spanning 5,000 parsecs."
"Negligible. No superior enemy forces. No unexpected diseases. Calculations indicate a 98% restoration. Our race is thriving once again."
For the Krenim, this is good news indeed.
But the Leader isn't entirely satisfied. "The, uh...the colony at Kyana Prime. That was restored as well?" His voice is anxious, hopeful.
The subordinate knew this question was coming. It has doubtless been asked before. "No, sir. In this time line the Imperium does not extend that far."
The Leader's shoulders slump; he turns away, refuses to look at his subordinate. "Then our mission has failed. Begin calculations for the next incursion."
Now, for most people, 98% would be enough. But it would seem that whatever was at Kyana Prime is what's driving the Leader onward. This appears to be not a strategic mission, but a personal one.
After taking another look at that transparent pyramid with the vanilla bean inside, I have a theory. Perhaps he left a sled named Rosebud there once.
The subordinate (I'm going to cheat and tell you his name, since it will be revealed later in the scene and I'm tired of typing in generic references) Obrist, can't take these new orders without question. "Sir, we have just accomplished the impossible--a 98% restoration. Another incursion, even a minor one, could undermine everything. We should dismantle this weapon and rejoin our people."
Great Leader--Annorax--shakes his head. "Not until every colony...every individual...every blade of grass is restored."
"You said yourself," insists Obrist, "our task will never be complete. Please, we should be satisfied with what we have accomplished. For 200 years, we have never come this close."
"Not close enough."
"If I may speak my thoughts," begs Obrist. "Many among the crew are convinced that you have...lost your objectivity. They think your quest for...precision is unrealistic. Sir, we will never restore 100% of what we had. We can manipulate the time continuum for another ten centuries. It will never happen."
Annorax takes his seat behind his desk and repeats his original orders. "Is that clear?"
"Perfectly," says Obrist, sadly, and turns to go.
"You surprise me, Obrist," Annorax calls after him. "After so many years you still perceive time through conventional eyes. 'Never' is a word that has no meaning here. As long as we stay on this vessel, protected from space-time, we have all eternity to accomplish our mission."
He smiles as he says it, but the thought of spending eternity with an intergalactic Captain Ahab doesn't fire the flames of volunteerism in me.
Entering Month of Hell II.
Voyager looks like...well, like my last car.
The ship is rocked by Krenim weapons. Whether it's the same Krenim or a different one, I won't dare guess. But it's big, and it packs a wallop. It appears that Voyager's been taking similar punishment for over a month now.
Janeway orders return fire, but Tuvok says they have no phasers. He also says the shield modifications failed. Chakotay says they did enough damage to lower the Krenim's aft shields, and Paris yells that the best defense is a good offense. Kim reminds him that they have no phasers, and the photon launchers are busted.
A creek and paddle reference would seem appropriate.
Doc calls with news of a power overload in sickbay, that he needs an engineer. Janeway asks if Kim can handle it from the bridge, but Kim says no. In fact, half of deck 5 is going to blow in five minutes or so, regardless of what they do. Chakotay orders an immediate evacuation of that deck.
Janeway listens to the mounting tales of woe, hand over her mouth. Then she makes a decision.
She asks for a torpedo count. "Eleven," says Tuvok. Janeway orders four of them (Hmm...four from eleven leaves seven. Four plus seven equals eleven. 47! Yipes.) She orders four of them armed and pushed out the torpedo tubes manually, to be deployed like mines. She orders Paris to let the Krenim get within 5000 meters of them without getting too banged up.
"No problem," says Paris, who'd rather keep the Krenim much farther away than that.
Doc does his best to evacuate deck five. He herds all the ambulatory crew, and helps the injured (of whom there are many) towards a nearby Jefferies tube. But they're running out of time.
Tuvok reports that the torpedoes are ready. Paris reports that they're in range.
Janeway stares hard at the screen. "Tuvok...Do it."
Four sleek ebony caskets tumble out the back of Voyager's neck like chocolate Pez. They hover lazily in space, and the Krenim vessel runs right into them.
Big mistake. Krenim ship go boom.
"Oh my gosh, the quarterback is toast!" yells Paris, doing a most unseemly end-zone dance (is that the Funky Chicken?)
That's the good news. The bad news is, deck five is about to blow.
Doc gets the last of the crew through the portal to safety, and enters last. Just as he's about to close the hatch, he sees two crewmen stumbling through a door at the far end of the hall, rushing toward safety as the computer counts down.
As the countdown hits one second, Doc shuts the door. The two crewmen were mere meters away. But they wouldn't have made it.
It's a hard choice, but it had to be made. But it is not something even a holographic doctor will have a hard time living with, if the look on his face is any indication.
We see the exterior of Voyager. Then we see much of the interior, as Deck Five makes a fiery exit into the void of space. (It's getting to be a habit, but--high fives and standing ovations to the special effects people. This episode's a stunner in the sfx department.)
Janeway drags herself off the ground. Her hair does a brief, passable imitation of Yahoo Serious. "Report!" she barks.
Kim speaks first. "Sections ten through 53 on deck five...are gone."
"Reports are coming in," says Tuvok. "12 wounded--many of them critically. The Doctor is setting up a triage facility in the mess hall. Two crew members were killed in the breach."
It's deja vu all over again.
"Stand down red alert," Janeway orders, her voice hard as duranium. "Assemble a security team. Survey the ship deck by deck. I want a full damage report."
Janeway looks around the bridge; we get a wide-angle view of the damage. It's as dark and smoke-choked as a disco dance club. Debris is everywhere. Janeway picks up what looks like a ceiling plate, now warped and brittle. She tosses it aside.
"I'll be in my ready room. You have the bridge,"she says to Chakotay.
Her final words are a whisper. "What's left of it."
Chakotay watches her go, his face etched with concern.
Janeway's ready room looks even worse than the bridge. She does a bit of a preliminary inspection before starting a bit of essential cleanup. She is picking up what looks like her coffeepot when her door chimes. She admits Chakotay, and apologizes about the mess.
"You should see my place. They haven't looked as bad since my old academy days." Neither has the strength to laugh.
"Is there something on your mind?" Janeway asks.
"Yes, but you're not going to like it."
"Well, that's never stopped you before," she snaps.
A Lone Reviewer instinctively checks to see if those Medical Experiment aliens are drilling into her skull again. But no, her stress can be chalked up to the usual--a month of getting the stuffing kicked out of her ship and crew.
But still, it's good manners to wait until after hearing the recommendation before spitting on it.
Janeway finds the ruins of her computer station (a nice looking Mac laptop). "Broken," she says idly, sweeping the debris off her desk with one arm to make room for the thing.
"I'll be blunt. Our strategy's failing. It was a good idea to try and create temporal shielding but it isn't working," he says.
"Not yet, but it will," she says, sweeping aside more junk o make way for her coffee set. "With every attack, we gather more information about their chronoton weapons."
Uh huh. The Jake LaMotta method, I believe. Getting the crap punched out of you isn't the best strategy. Oh sure, it works sometimes, but still....
"How many more attacks will it take? Before long, there won't be a ship left to protect."
"We don't have a choice," Janeway says, her patience fraying.
"Maybe we do," Chakotay says.
Janeway sweeps aside from of the debris from her chair and sits down. "Here comes the part I'm not going to like," she says, kicking her feet up on the desk, holding her hardbound, printed copy of Moby Dick to her chin.
Chakotay leans over the desk and speaks earnestly. "We should consider leaving the ship behind. Breaking the crew into smaller groups--escape pods, shuttles, each one with its own course. If all goes well, we'll rendezvous on the other side of Krenim space."
"Then what?" Janeway whispers.
I'm not psychic, but I see a "no" on the horizon.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it; but at least we'd be increasing our chances of survival."
"Abandon ship? The answer's no."
Janeway stands. "I'm not breaking up the family, Chakotay. We're stronger as a team. One crew, one ship. The moment we split apart we lose the ability to pool our talents. We become vulnerable. We'll get picked off one by one. Now, I say we make our stand. Together.
Now, here's the thing. If you step into the Wayback Machine with Mr. Peabody, you'll recall the last time the two of them clashed over a matter this serious. We got an impassioned speech by Chakotay about scorpions and true nature, and Janeway turned it into an issue of trust. By the time that little clash of opinions was done, two empires lay in smoking ruin, one wild child raised by Collective wolves was being welcomed back to the human family with one open arm and one locked-and-loaded phaser to her head. And another sweet young thing with a nine year life span...
Nah. Maybe I'm thinking of another series. Maybe Ocampa are just a figment of the collective imagination. There is only Seven of Nine. There has always been Seven of Nine.
I love Big Brother.
<cough> sorry. I see a few hundred keyboards pointing in my direction. I'll try to stop pointing out where a little short-term memory might have saved this crew a bit of a headache. Or at least the folks in the Paramount mail room. My in box has already been flooded with queries from folks wondering why there was no mention of Kes. And I have no good answer. I spent the whole hour waiting for some hint that "Before and After" would be remembered by someone onboard Voyager. It didn't have to be the solution to their problems; all they had to do was remember that Kes told them about the Krenim. They treated her, brought her back from the brink of extinction threatened by Krenim torpedo bits. She spoke at least to Janeway and Tuvok about her experiences for tactical purposes. But all that's been completely ignored.
The writers certainly did remember at least some of "Before and After," because so many events, major and minor, coincide. But the ixnay on the esKay makes no ensesay. What is shaping up as a jaw-droppingly cool episode is marred severely by this simple, yet screaming oversight.
Ahem. Back to the show.
So anyway. Usually when Chakotay and Janeway disagree, the ship is at stake--often because Janeway vows to blow it up before she'll follow his suggestions.
However, this time she points out the value of sticking together as long as the ship can sustain life. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction, she spells out the reason why she's rejecting the advice. It's strongly worded, but it's logical as hell.
And Chakotay backs off. "To be honest, I wasn't too fond of the idea myself."
If you were hoping for more Tales from Chakotay's Storybook, get used to disappointment.
No argument. No major plot complication.
"As long as Voyager's in one piece, we stay," Janeway says.
Chakotay sighs. "We stay," he agrees.
Speaking of one piece, Chakotay picks up a cup near his feet. "This looks like it stayed in one piece. Where does this go?"
"My lucky teacup," Janeway smiles, taking it. "Right over here."
Before she can place it on the shelf where it belongs, Paris calls a red alert. Two more Krenim ships are here to make their lives miserable. Janeway and Chakotay head for the bridge; she places the lucky teacup on her desk.
And wouldn't you know it...as the ship vibrates under fresh attacks, it falls to the floor and shatters into tiny pieces. Lady Luck is too busy doing Taco Bell commercials and saving Sisko's hide to spend much time here.
(No, I'm not kidding.)
Torres and Kim are locked inside what looks like a turbolift. Torres is injured; she nurses a broken leg (I'm guessing) while Harry paces. To distract themselves, they play "guess what I'm thinking" games.
"Grace Kelly...cat burglars...the Riviera. Name the title...and the male lead," Harry says.
"To Catch a Thief. Clark Gable." Right on the title, but they disagree on the actor. She says Gable, Harry says Cary. Grant, that is. Torres says she's seen the "holographic version" twice. (I wonder what they thought of Starship Troopers. I think I'd be scared to see a holo of that one.) Torres finally gives up on Gable, but insists they no longer use 20th-century entertainment as a topic. (So much for the Review Boy question...dang.)
"My turn. Category...athletics. A notorious athlete...Parrises' Squares, championship finals...uh...controversial decision."
Kim laughs at her puny efforts to stump him. "M'kota R'cho--first and only Klingon to ever play the game. During the finals of 2342 one of the referees called a penalty against his team. R'cho strangled him."
"Impressive," Torres says through gritted teeth.
"You're looking at a true sports aficionado," he gloats. (Hey, we learn something new about Harry!). "Let's see... how about interstellar history?"
"Oh, great. You pick the one subject I almost failed at the academy," she says. "Go ahead and ask..." she reels with a fresh wave of pain which interrupts the game briefly. Harry does his best to give her hope. They've only been stuck here for six hours, emergency crews should be coming soon, and she won't know the meaning of pain until she hears the violin solo Paris has been working on to play for her on their next date. She cringes at the very thought.
"Go ahead and ask your stupid question before I pass out and you don't have anybody to play with," she says between gasps.
"Okay. Um... it's a famous ship. Uh... pre-warp civilization... um...Montana...uh...second stage had chemical engines."
"Another (gasp) clue."
"Vulcans, um...Earth...First Contact."
"Oh, right, right. Um... uh... uh...Zephram Cochrane's ship...what was it called? God, it's on the tip of my tongue."
And she's the chief engineer? She should be ashamed of herself. It's right there in chapter one of the intro to warp drive course at the academy...
But she is preoccupied a bit by the excruciating pain. I'll cut her a little slack. Harry offers to, but she insists she'll get it.
But Seven intervenes. Employing the Jaws of Life, she pries open the turbolift doors and helps them into the corridor.
"It's about time," barks Torres, less happy to see Seven than you'd expect.
Seven explains that the last attack knocked out 19 power relays and the whole turbolift system.
"Get me to the Jefferies tube network on Deck 11," Torres says. "The EPS manifold must have taken a hit, too."
[insert Twilight Zone theme.]
"Seven of Nine can go take a look," Harry insists. "We have to get you to the Doctor." Torres finally gives in.
"The Phoenix," Seven announces.
"What?" demands Torres.
"The correct response to your query. The vessel Ensign Kim was describing. It was designated the Phoenix."
"Not bad. I didn't realize you knew so much about Earth history," says Kim, smiling.
"I don't. But...the Borg were present during those events. It is a complicated story. Perhaps another time."
"I think so," Torres says.
Oh sure. We get a First Contact tie in, but no Kes?
Someone needs to be spanked.
Janeway, Chakotay and Paris stand before a flickering, but at least partially functional wall computer. "Transverse bulkheads," Chakotay explains. "We've set up emergency force fields between all decks and every section. In the event of a cataclysmic breach most of us will be protected."
"Ingenious," says Janeway.
"Actually, you can thank Mr. Paris. He came up with the idea."
"I was inspired by an ancient steamship--the Titanic. The engineers of the day constructed a series of special bulkheads--sort of like a honeycomb--that would lower into place if they suffered a major hull breach. In theory, they could stay afloat even with half the ship filled with water." He smiles proudly at the wall.
"The Titanic?" Janeway asks, a funny expression on her face. "As I recall, it sank."
Paris whispers conspiratorially. "Let's just say I've made a few improvements."
Janeway smiles. "I knew your fixation with history would come in handy someday. Good work."
The Doctor summons Paris to the Mess Hall to care for the fresh batch of incoming wounded. Paris acknowledges. "I'm a popular guy today," he says grimly as he exits.
Seven manually opens the door to a Jefferies tube. She crawls inside, and finds what appears to be a large piece of red Kryptonite lodged in the wall. It sparks and hisses a warning to stay away.
We've seen this before.
Seven moves closer. She takes some readings, and hails Tuvok. "There is an undecorated chronoton torpedo lodged in the starboard Jefferies tube on Deck 11, Section Two. The warhead is still active."
"Do not attempt to disarm it. Hold your position and wait for my arrival," he orders. "Is that clear?"
"Arrive quickly," Seven says with urgent efficiency.
Neelix helps more wounded into the mess hall for treatment.
Paris tends to B'Elanna. She's in bad shape. "I've stopped the internal bleeding. You're going to be okay," he says. "Is that your expert opinion?" she says, smiling through the pain. "That's a promise," he tells her. His scans point out a ruptured vertebra. "I'll see if I can repair it," he says.
The Doc calls him over to another patient. Paris says he'll be there in a minute. Doc says Now. Paris manages to leave her side, but it's not easy for him.
"In case you hadn't noticed," Doc snaps, "B'Elanna is not the only patient here." He efficiently scans the patient and Paris does a passable job of providing the appropriate instruments on command.
"She's in pain," Paris protests.
"But no longer in danger of dying. That is the first rule of medical triage--make sure the patient will live then move on to the next one. Emotional detachment is essential. Otherwise, you risk impairing your judgment."
Sound advice. Paris takes it. They move to another patient.
Doc should have quit while he was ahead. "You could be seeing more of your friends in here soon. If you can't handle it I'll find another assistant. You can leave."
Now that was just plain out of line. And uncharacteristic for Doc, who moves on to scan the next patient while Paris treats the last one.
"Physician, heal thyself," Paris mutters, loud enough for Doc to hear.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Doc demands, stopping his work.
"Well, it seems to me that you're the one who's getting emotional around here," Paris notes, continuing his duties.
Doc considers this--and realizes that Paris is correct. He tells Paris about the experience when Deck Five blew. "I saw Ensign Strickler and Crewman Emmanuel at the end of a corridor. They were trying to reach the Jefferies tube. I kept the hatch open--waited for them as long as I could--but time ran out. I had no choice but to seal the hatch."
Paris understands. That would rattle anyone. "That must have been very hard for you."
"My point is, it could have been worse. Had I lost my objectivity I might have kept the hatch open and everyone would have perished." It's obvious he's still troubled by it, though...and a rattled doctor could spell trouble in days ahead.
They continue to treat the wounded.
Tuvok and Seven scan the torpedo fragment in the Jefferies tube. "If we attempt to dislodge the torpedo or move it with the transporters it will most likely detonate," notes Tuvok. Seven asks if they can disarm it, but Tuvok says it's within two minutes of going off. "If we re-route emergency power to this junction and erect a level-ten force field it should be enough to contain the explosion."
Seven begins scanning the thing further.
"We must hurry," says Tuvok, urging her towards the hatch.
"If I can determine the exact temporal variance of this torpedo it will help us perfect the temporal shielding." (Worked for Kes, as I recall.)
"There is no time," Tuvok insists.
"We may never have this opportunity again," Seven insists.
"I am giving you an order. Now!" He begins dragging her towards the hatch.
Seven's scan completes. "The temporal variance is 1.47 microseconds." Exactly as predicted...and another dang 47 reference, thank you very much.
"Excellent work," notes Tuvok. "If you disobey my orders again I will be forced to..."
The torpedo screams its death-rupture. Tuvok shields Seven's body with his own (dirty old man) but inexplicably turns his face INTO the clouds of plasma billowing towards them.
That's gotta hurt.
* * *
Captain's log, Stardate 51268.4. This morning's attack destroyed the power grid on Deck 11. No casualties this time but the replicator system was badly damaged. We've gone to emergency rations. As a result, the situation has gotten a little worse. Environmental controls continue to fail. Seven decks have been rendered uninhabitable and we've had to relocate the crew. Quarters are close, nerves are frayed, and I'm not sure what's more difficult to maintain--Voyager's systems or the crew's morale. What's important is that we're together working toward a single goal--survival.
[Frank Sinatra's "I did it My Way" wafts through the darkened, trashed corridors of Voyager]
The ship looks like hell--though, to Janeway's credit, it actually looks better than it did in the worst times of "Before and After." However, this is a two-parter. There's still plenty of time for more damage.
The ship looks like a Haunted House on Halloween. The crew could easily do time as the walking dead. Few people talk to each other; they're too weary. Those who can function, work.
Janeway is working, when a silver pocketwatch is thrust into view. "Happy birthday," Chakotay says. Janeway is confused that anyone would use the word "happy" these days. "Today is May 20," Chakotay reminds her. "Is it?" Janeway asks, numbly, continuing her work. "I thought we were still in April. Guess I've lost track of the time." She seems incapable of smiling--or of any other strong emotion.
Today's word is "grim."
Physically, Janeway doesn't look that bad. Hair is out of place, she's a little too thin. But the toll of the past nine weeks tells in her eyes. They are absolutely dead. She's operating on willpower alone.
Chakotay, on the other hand, looks like hell, but at least he finds the courage to smile--though it's clear he's summoning courage to do so. He is growing a goatee; he looks like he hasn't washed his hair in weeks. He's caked in more grime than Pigpen.
Chakotay says the watch should help. Janeway looks at it, holds it. "It's beautiful," she says. But she might as well be holding a dead rat, or nothing at all. It doesn't faze her.
"19th century--mechanical movement. It's a replica of the chronometer worn by Captain Cray of the British navy," Chakotay explains, smiling. "His ship was hit by a typhoon in the Pacific. Everyone back in England thought they were killed but eight months later Cray sailed his ship into London harbor. There wasn't much left of it--a few planks, half a sail--but he got his crew home."
Not a bad analogy at all.
"I appreciate the sentiment," Janeway says, but I can't keep this. Recycle it. We can't afford to waste energy on nonessentials." Chakotay protests that he'd made it months before, for her birthday, long before the recent troubles. But Janeway reminds him, "That watch represents a meal, a hypospray, or a pair of boots. It could mean the difference between life and death one day." She returns to her work, the only thing she seems capable of focusing on at the moment, driving herself past the limits of endurance so they can have that much better chance of survival in the next, inevitable attack.
Surely, these are the worst of times.
Tuvok places a Vulcan straight-edge razor (very cool looking, by the way) into a sink of water, and scrapes it across his face. He cuts himself.
We see Tuvok's reflection in the mirror. It is obscured by the numerous cracks in the glass.
Not that it matters to Tuvok. He stares straight ahead as he feels along the counter for a towel to apply to the cut.
Apparently, even those inner Vulcan eyelids couldn't withstand the blast of a full-on chronoton torpedo blast to the face. He's completely blind, though his face is otherwise unscarred.
The door chimes, and Tuvok says Enter. Seven appears in the doorway; we see her in the mirror crack'd. "Reporting for duty, Lieutenant," she says.
She should call him Commander. That's what Lieutenant Commanders are called. Dangit.
Don't get me wrong; I may be griping up a storm, but this episode is incredibly good.
Tuvok asks about their agenda for the day. "After we make your customary rounds I'd like to take you to deflector control. I had an inspiration last night about the temporal shielding." Tuvok approves.
Seven notices the cut on his cheek. "You've been damaged," she says with concern. "A minor laceration," he insists. "I've offered to assist you with your personal grooming," she reminds him. "There are some tasks I would rather perform myself," says Tuvok stiffly.
"Unacceptable," declares Seven. "You're risking further injury."
"Shaving is hardly a life-threatening activity," he says. (I beg to differ; a straight-edge razor could be quite deadly if you're shaving during an attack). "Tell me about your inspiration," he says, changing the subject.
"We've been trying to match our shields to the temporal variance of their torpedoes. But I believe we must also match the deflector array to the inverse of that variance."
"Fascinating," says Tuvok. "When will the deflectors be ready?"
"They're ready now. But the modifications are untested."
"Then our rounds can wait. Take me to deflector control." Seven offers her arm, and Tuvok takes it.
They walk through the battered corridors. Ensign Brooks passes by them, giving a cheerful "Seven." Seven responds with a polite "Ensign."
"A friend of yours?" Tuvok asks.
"My... cabin mate," she says. "As a Borg, I was accustomed to cohabiting with thousands of other drones. But I find it significantly more difficult to live with a single human."
"In what way?" Tuvok asks, though he knows the answer all too well.
"Ensign Brooks is negligent. She leaves her equipment lying around the quarters and her clothing on the floor."
You go, girl.
"Indeed. I have found that most humans are less than meticulous when it comes to their domestic habits."
"Indeed," Seven agrees.
Ensign Neelix approaches, wearing the gold Starfleet uniform of Security. (Kes said it would be like this.) He asks a "tactical question."
"We're just about done rebuilding the internal security sensors and we're ready to program the audio signal. Do you want it to say, 'intruder alert'? Or should we try something a little more dramatic, like 'Warning, intruder alert'? Or, 'Intruders among us! Danger! Danger! Intruders among us'?"
Tuvok gives the bulkhead his most impatient look. The bulkhead cowers. "'intruder alert' will suffice."
"Yeah, go with a classic," Neelix says with a smile. "Understood, sir." He scampers off.
"And you believe you have difficulties," Tuvok says.
The alarm klaxons go off. Chakotay's voice rings through the corridors. "All hands to battle stations. Krenim vessels approaching. Repeat: all hands to battle stations!"
Tuvok tells Seven to go to deflector control and bring the new shields on-line. "We will test them in battle," he says, grabbing the wall and feeling his way toward the bridge.
The bridge looks even worse than on Day 47, if that's possible. The stuff that's broken is piled into an unused corner, and it's considerable. Paris has to wipe his eyes to keep the sweat out of his face. Chakotay and Janeway are slumped into their chairs as if the gravity is about 20% higher than normal. Just about everyone looks ready to drop from exhaustion.
Tuvok reaches his station. "Computer, activate tactile interface." We don't see it, but we know Tuvok has had some experience with it; he's as efficient as ever. Janeway aks for weapons status; Tuvok reports that they still don't have any.
Janeway orders the Krenim vessel shown on screen. It looms like a harbinger of death.
Tuvok reports that Seven's been modifying the temporal shields. "They should be on-line in a moment."
"It's a warship," Kim notes, scanning the vessel.
"You know the routine," Janeway says tiredly.
"Evasive maneuvers," Paris sighs, inputting the course. "They're matching course."
"Hold them off as long as you can. Bridge to Seven of Nine. Where are those shields?"
Seven works with cool efficiency. "Stand by."
"They're Charging weapons," Tuvok reports.
"Seven, we could use a little Borg efficiency right about now," says Janeway tensely.
"I can't shake them!" Paris shouts.
"They're targeting the bridge!" Kim reports.
This could be it.
"Temporal shielding is on-line." Seven says, and not a moment too soon.
"They're firing!" Kim yells.
"Full port thrusters!" Chakotay orders.
Voyager veers out of the way of the first shot. The second one connects solidly...
With the shields.
The bridge shakes, but it's the least jarring impact they've had in weeks.
"Temporal shields are holding...no damage," Tuvok reports.
Janeway stands, fire in her eyes. "Hail them."
"Krenim vessels, this is the Captain of Voyager. You may have noticed we have a defense against your torpedoes now. I suggest you stand down."
"No response," says Tuvok.
Janeway stares at the screen, but doesn't have the energy for a tirade. She frowns.
"Their mistake," she whispers. "We're going through their space whether they like it or not."
Paris acknowledges wordlessly.
Janeway collapses into her chair, glad to finally have a break in this long ordeal.
The Lucy in the Sky approaches a new planet.
"We are within range of the Garenor homeworld," Obrist reports. (He looks a little like Jason Priestly of Beverly Hills 90210 fame, incidentally. I bring this up because the time change means I missed that show, darn it.)
"Set temporal coordinates. Full power to the weapon. Prepare for total erasure of the species," says Annorax. His voice is detached. He's doing his job, but he's not taking either pleasure or shame in the act of wiping out not only entire species in the present, but all of them who ever lived. He's doing a liposuction on time. His voice is almost clinical.
The beam lances out from the ship to the planet's surface. The whole sphere is engulfed with the effect of the beam, and we watch the planet change back to an unsullied wilderness in real time. This puppy is almost as impressive as the Genesis device Kirk's son developed.
"Temporal incursion in progress," Obrist announces. "So far, so good."
Annorax's fist clenches. "Track the temporal wavefront as it passes through the system. I want to monitor every change in the time line as it occurs."
Kim announces that the Krenim warship is in pursuit but their weapons are unpowered.
"They don't know what to do with us now that we're shielded against their torpedoes," Janeway says, more smugly than their situation merits. They're still in substantial peril.
Something new comes up on Kim's sensors. "Captain, there's some kind of spatial distortion heading toward us. Sensor readings are erratic. I can't identify the phenomenon."
"What's the source?"
"Unknown, but it originated approximately 20 light years from our position. It looks like a shock wave in the fabric of space-time."
Janeway tells Tom to get them out of there, but Paris says they won't make it. Janeway places faith in their new shields.
Her faith is well-place. The wavefront passes right over them. They're no worse off than they were before.
But no better, either.
"You were correct, Captain. The temporal shielding has protected us. The wavefront has passed."
The forward viewscreen shows the Krenim warship. It ripples...and shrinks.
Soon, it's back to the weenie-class ship the Krenim we remember that they had originally.
But the crew doesn't remember that. They were temporally unshielded the first time, and were effected by results then. This time, they were immune to the effects. But the Krenim wasn't. And now it's half the size and has weapons that couldn't damage a shuttlecraft.
"What happened to the warship?" Janeway asks. Paris says it's nowhere to be found. Chakotay adds that the Krenim in general are nowhere to be found. "It looks like this entire part of space has changed somehow. The last time I checked this region was filled with Krenim colonies and vessels. I just ran a scan and sensors show no colonies and just a handful of Krenim ships."
Janeway has a theory. "Harry, transfer all your sensor data about that shock wave to the Astrometrics lab. Tell Seven of Nine to meet me there."
"Captain, Astrometrics took heavy damage a few days go. It's off-line," Chakotay reminds her.
"Well, let's get it back on-line. It appears that the Krenim Imperium has vanished. Our troubles could be over and I'd like to find out why."
Obrist reports that something has gone seriously wrong. "The entire Krenim Imperium--it's reverted to a pre-warp state."
"Not possible," growls Annorax. "Our calculations were perfect."
"I may have an explanation. There's an anomalous temporal reading 20 light years from here. It's coming from a vessel...Component 049 beta, a ship called Voyager."
"That ship was classified as an inert component," Annorax says with surprise. "It shouldn't be generating a temporal field."
"But it is...and it was enough to throw off our calculations." Obrist doesn't say I Told You So. He probably doesn't dare.
"Take me to them," Annorax orders.
* * *
Seven of Nine completes the repairs to the sensors and power levels in the Astrometrics lab. The database is still intact, she adds.
Janeway asks for the region of space they're in now from the last database refresh, which showed the pre-change sector. Spatial Grid 005 appears with an entirely different grid from the one we remember.
"The Krenim Imperium," Janeway notes. "Over 200 star systems; 900 planets; thousands of warp-capable vessels. And now...After the shock wave everything seems to have changed. Run a new scan." Seven punches in a few commands, and the angry green Krenim space shrinks dramatically; three other species that had been at the small fringes of the sector are now dominant, and completely surround the Krenim.
"Same space, different configuration. Exactly as Chakotay said. The Imperium appears to have been reduced to a few planets, and a smattering of vessels. It appears that someone--or something--has altered history. But why weren't we affected?"
"Perhaps we were protected from the changes by our temporal shielding," Seven suggests.
"So, the question remains--what caused that shock wave in the first place? See if you can track it back to its origin." Seven tracks it back in a few seconds (this is one HECK of a cool and useful lab) to the Garenor homeworld, which they'd passed three weeks before. "The planet is no longer populated," Seven reports. "Astrometric data indicate that the instant the shock wave appeared the Garenor species vanished."
"Erased...from history," Janeway whispers to nobody in particular. Seven is confused.
"I'm no authority on time travel," Janeway tells Seven. "In fact, I've made it my goal in life to avoid it, but...this sounds to me like a Causality Paradox. Think about it. The temporal shock wave eliminates a single species and all of history changes as a result."
"An intriguing theory. Perhaps the Krenim are responsible. They do possess temporal technology."
"But why would they alter history to undermine themselves? No, we're still missing a big piece of the puzzle. Run another scan..."
The ship rumbles. Someone new is in town.
"Scanning the vessel," says Obrist. "Their defensive shielding is generating a level nine temporal disruption."
"Collect samples--two life-forms, ten square meters of the hull," orders Annorax. "Disable their shielding. Prepare to initiate a temporal incursion."
"That vessel's in a state of temporal flux," reports Harry. "It's like they exist outside space-time."
"They're scanning us." says Paris.
Not only scanning...Chakotay rushes to Paris's side...and both of them disappear.
While the crew tries to retrieve their crewmen, the alien ship hails them.
"State your identity," says the soft-spoken man in the big chair and the Krenim uniform.
"I'm Captain Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. Who are you, and where are my men?"
"I am Annorax of the Krenim Imperium. We've transferred your crewmen to my vessel for further analysis." He makes no threats, gives no grandstanding. He is the most unusual Krenim the crew has ever met.
I guess two hundred years of erasing all traces of other species can mellow a fellow out.
"Your ship does not come from this quadrant," he observes simply.
"We come from Earth--a planet 65,000 light years from here. We're on our way home."
Annorax acknowledges, displaying no emotion whatsoever.
"We've been observing some rather unusual events in the region. It seems your Imperium...never existed. Perhaps you could shed some light on this," Janeway says, more a demand than a query.
"That doesn't concern you. What is important is that you understand that I bear you no hostility...but you have diverted me from my mission." He sounds almost sorrowful.
"Your mission?" Janeway asks, then the piece fits into place. "You're responsible for the changes in the time line."
"You're a long way from your world," says Annorax. "In a manner of speaking, so am I. Unfortunately, only one of us can go home again. Your sacrifice will restore the lives of countless millions. I'm sorry."
You gotta feel for the guy. But not enough to let him wipe you out.
Janeway kicks the helm girl out of her seat and sits down.
Oh no. Remember what happened last time they let her drive....
"I'm reading a massive energy buildup--some kind of weapon."
"Shields," Janeway orders.
Voyager gets raked by a massive and continuous jolt of temporal energy.
"Temporal shields are weakening," Tuvok reports.
"That energy beam--it's pushing Voyager out of the space-time continuum," says Kim.
"He's trying to erase us from history," Janeway says, taking it personally. She won't go gently into any temporal distortion.
"I've scanned their propulsion system," says Seven. "Their vessel's mass prevents them from exceeding warp six. We can escape."
"I must remind you," Tuvok interjects, "our structural integrity is still impaired. If we go to warp, the damage to Voyager will be extreme."
As opposed to, say, getting utterly wiped out, as though you never existed? George Bailey could tell you what hell that is...the whole Galaxy could turn into Potterville.
"What about Tom and Chakotay?" Kim asks.
"We'll have to come back for them. All hands clear the outer sections and prepare for wide-scale breaches. Tuvok, activate the transverse bulkheads."
As the temporal shields fail, Janeway kicks it into warp seven.
"They're not in pursuit," Kim reports.
"We are losing the outer hull. Transverse bulkheads are holding," reports Tuvok.
We see Voyager's outer hull peel like my shoulders three days after that first summer day at the beach.
The crew is assembled in one of the larger conference rooms. Or the Mess Hall. The damage is sufficient that you can't tell one room from another these days.
The crew has nothing left to give. And neither does the ship. Janeway has finally come to the conclusion that Chakotay gave several weeks before.
The time has come. Janeway addresses the survivors.
"Each of you has done your best. But determination alone isn't going to hold this ship together."
Though it's probably what has kept it together this long.
"It's time we faced reality. We've lost nine decks. More than half the ship has been destroyed. Life support is nearly gone. Voyager can no longer sustain its crew. I promised myself that I would never give this order--that I would never break up this family--but asking you to stay...would be asking you to die."
"You will proceed to the escape pods, and evacuate this vessel. Set your course for the Alpha Quadrant. Along the way, try to find allies. Secure faster ships if you can. Anything to get home."
"The senior staff and I will remain on board as long as possible. We will try, somehow, to rescue Tom and Chakotay."
"The escape pods are equipped with sub-space beacons. That's how we'll keep track of you. When we find each other again--and we will, we will find each other again--I expect all of you to be in one piece with some interesting stories to tell."
She visits briefly with the crew as they shuffle out--or are carried out. It's a sad day.
The view, though, is impressive, as the lifepods emerge from dozens of hatches on what's left of the hull, and they head out for the great, terrifying unknown.
[Addendum, November 9: After posting the review, I got a number of nice messages from folks--okay, one of you told me I "put the anal in analysis," but that's okay, it made me laugh--who pointed out something about the Kes situation. I'll add those comments to the end of the review.]
If you're new to Voyager this season, this was one terrific episode.
If you've been watching all along, and like the show, and remember Kes, and remember one of her best performances in "before and After," you're probably wondering what the heck happened.
But even if you DO wonder what in blazes happened, you may still think this is one terrific episode.
I know I do.
It's sad, really, that a simple three-letter word couldn't have been fit in there SOMEWHERE, acknowledging the existence of Kes.
Erased from history, indeed. This episode could be a metaphor for what happened to that cute little Ocampa this season. One minute, Janeway won't let her leave the ship. But as soon as she's off, it's like--hey, why is Doc working alone? Put Tom back there. Nice garden; where did it come from?
You get the idea.
"Before and After" introduced us to the Krenim. Gave us several scenes during the Year of Hell, or several versions of it, anyway. Many of which they duplicated more or less exactly in this episode, right down to the temporal variance and camera angles of that torpedo Seven found. It was too deliberate to be an oversight.
Unless they have something in store for part two, they made a HUGE mistake by refusing to acknowledge the fact that Kes told them about the Krenim six months ago. Because according to my mail, that's the number one question I'm getting.
One little word could have saved them and us a world of grief, and not changed the story one whit.
Lemme grab my butt-kickin' boots. Someone needs some Delta Quadrant Therapy.
Okay. Enough rants about that. And unless the situation changes next week and they DO somehow manage to remember the little pixie, I'll let the subject drop with this week's overkill.
That one complaint aside...damn.
One of my top-rated Voyager episodes EVER.
This puppy blew me away.
The character interactions sizzled. Seven and Tuvok, exchanging muted but amusing commentary on their crewmates. Harry and B'Elanna, together again, playing a trivia game while she bleeds. Paris and Doc. Janeway and Chakotay on several occasions. Janeway and Seven. Paris and Torres, naturally. Neelix and Tuvok. And lots of work for the extras.
Everyone did a terrific job. But special kudos to Kate Mulgrew, who put in one of her best performances yet. She had to cover a lot of range here, and she did so admirably.
Three dead, that we saw.
No shuttles destroyed, though, believe it or not.
That new Astrometrics lab--coolness on wheels, man. It's not unlike the Stellar Cartography room on the Enterprise-D; though that was a nice all-around experience, the idea of having a working copy of the WHOLE DANG GALAXY for study and real-time analysis is downright spectacular. It's the sort of tool that empires (and Collectives) need. Wow.
This episode reminded me of "Disaster" on TNG. Characters got to shine on their own, and they got to work with each other in crises large and small.
The slow descent of the ship and crew from the pretty decent shape of the show's beginning (along with the shiny new Astrometrics lab--more on that later) to the bare essentials of survival, more harsh than even World War I-era submarines.
This was the Season 3 cliffhanger I'd have preferred to Scorpion. And in a very real sense, it covers the crew scratching for the basics of survival better than "Basics." Janeway's observation, spoken in a zombie-like monotone, that a birthday present could mean the difference between life and death, is chillingly effective. The crew went from the mock horror of escaping from a long-winded Doc, to escaping from an uninhabitable home.
The guest performance, particularly Kurtwood Smith's, was terrific. He played the role as someone who's been destroying lives for over two centuries, all in the pursuit of something we can only guess at for now, who is dead inside but who continues because he's got "all the time in the universe." It's a self-consigned hell, and he's finding that not everyone in his ranks wants to be there. He is not there for his stated purpose, either; a sane man would have stopped when 98% of their objective had been achieved. But he went too far, and lost it all again. The trick was to make him a sympathetic character--and the understated way Smith played the role worked splendidly. He is someone to be feared, and resisted. But I couldn't hate him. In his own way, he's like Colonel Braxton from "Future's End," doing the job he feels he has to, to preserve or recover what he's lost.
In fact, I have to wonder if those benevolent, low-RQ Zahl might have done a little temporal punishing of their own a generation before. Hopefully the next hour will shed some light on this.
The transformation of the Krenim from small to large to small again was interesting. I guess when you've been masters of time for so long, you're going to be cocky, even when your mouth is writing checks your torpedo tubes can't cash. The Krenim captain who yapped so annoyingly when he was "small", and whose demeanor--if not his attitude--did a complete 180 after the temporal adjustment, did a terrific job. As much as I felt for Annorax, I didn't like this guy, and I was hoping that his was the ship that went Boom in the photon mine scene. I loved to hate that dude.
The special effects were, as I said, jaw-dropping. The Astrometrics lab alone blew me away. The "erasing from history" at the beginning of the episode, and the planetary cleansing later on, were stunning. The hell Voyager was put through time and time again, the explosive trauma, the shearing of hull plates, the incoming weapons fire--inspired. The releasing of photon torpedoes and the escape pods taking off--wow.
I was blown away.
Character moments: One of my favorites was between Kim and Torres in the turbolift, playing the trivia game. We learned rather a lot about both of them in that scene--and a little about Seven of Nine as well, seeing the First Contact film from the Borg perspective. There are numerous similar examples--great lines, great looks, tense exhanges, and the overall mood of the ship, inside and out. We watch them die a little bit each day, a day at a time. It's depressing as all get-out, but interesting all the same.
And what about Paris and Chakotay? They've been living on the edge for over two months, and now they're all by themselves in enemy territory. This could give them a chance to patch things up between them once and for all, or get on each other's nerves something fierce. They've been working quite well together lately, but under the right circumstances, it all comes flying out.
Not much more to say. There's plenty for relationshippers to chew on. There was science (real or bogus) for the thinkers. There was lots of explosions for the action crowd. I'm sure there's a message in there somewhere (how about "Live in the NOW!!!") for the philosophizers, the special effects junkies probably OD'd happily, and the story, at least for me, worked like gangbusters.
But dammit, I wanted a Kes reference.
On a 0-10 scale, I'm giving it a 9.75. Quarter point off (and a large extended middle finger and a field of Scotsmen waving their bared buttocks in Paramount's direction) for the deplorable oversight. I might go back and change this to a 10 if they manage one next week, but it'd better be a danged good one.
I can do that, too. I've got the literary equivalent of a History Eraser thingy. I've got WordPerfect.
[November 9]: Oh, fine. Let me put my neck out there for chopping, and THEN give me the Kes/Chaos theory to help explain away my major ranting issue.
Ah well. Review Boy is quite willing to admit when he's missed something, once it's pounded into his head that he actually has.
Several of you have suggested--and it makes perfect sense--that all the Krenim mucking about with the timeline has produced a situation where the timeline has already been impacted before the beginning of the episode--and Voyager along with it--so that they're in a completely different timeline from the ones (there were several) in which Kes was on board. [Thanks to Chad Brown, and many others, for your efforts to enlighten me on the whole timeline issue.]
Julia Houston suggests the key is in the coif. Why does Janeway's hair change all of a sudden? Going back to "Before and After," Janeway had a different hairdo than she does here. It could be simply incidental...but it's the sort of subtle clue the die-hard fans love.
I should point out that as far back as "Projections" I pointed out how much I despise the "mess with your mind" episodes. And I take some comfort in the thought that Janeway says pretty much the same thing about temporal phenomenon: "I've done my best to avoid it my whole career." I don't blame her a bit; causality paradoxes could make your head explode if you thought about them too much. (Though she seemed to handle it okay in "Time and Again" and "Parallax," but that's another column.)
When the Krenim captain tells Obrist "we've been at this for how long, and you still think linearly"...he could be talking about me as well. I haven't gotten that lateral thinking down very well. It will be ironic if they do hit the "shiny, candy-like reset button" at the end of Part II and Menosky and Braga send me an email saying "Gotcha!" like I did to all the Relationshippers freaked out over the last bit of dialog in "Scientific Method."
"Poetic justice" comes to mind.
So anyway. The best explanation someone sent me pointed out that the first use of the Krenim weapon occurred BEFORE we first saw Voyager, just before they entered Zahl territory. This occurred on "Day 1," so we can assume that this is the starting point--and if they push the button, it would bring them back to this point.
We SEE the wave affect Voyager and a Krenim warship twice. But we can assume that since the weapon was USED once before that, that it could have impacted Voyager, and that its effects must be divined rather than handed to us. (I hate when they do that, especially when I don't catch it. Makes me feel like a total doofus.)
Here's a bit of the message someone sent (I'll leave it anonymous until I get their permission to use their name): "That's sometimes the problem with time travel and the circumstances of it in this episode--you never know what came before in any given timeline when you enter it because the situation keeps changing everytime the Krenim erase something from history."
In other words: "nothing is necessarily as it seems." And "assume nothing." I made a big assumption, and it could come back to haunt me next week. And if so, I'll admit it freely. Even so, I got enough mail from people as confused as I was about why Kes wasn't mentioned to believe that a Kes reference--ANY Kes reference--would have helped us out. But maybe not. Maybe the absolute absence was a clue in itself, and I was too forest-and-trees to catch it.
Wouldn't be the first time.
Next week: the conclusion. Doc relieves Janeway of Duty. Action Kate turns Voyager into a convertible. And someone presses the big, shiny, candy-like reset button. Or do they?
If you want a second opinion, check out Julia's, or head on over to the lounge where Kris and some of her pals offers their musings from the Rec Room O' Reviews.