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.
Janeway fights with Doc. Paris fights with Chakotay. Voyager fights with a big timeship. The producers fight with the legacy of "Before and After."
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
[I promise to not go overboard with the 47 references this week. But for those not playing the home game...why not join in? See how many you can pick out. Be creative. Hint: 1+3=4; 1+3+3=7.]
Captain's Log, Stardate 51425.4. Our condition has left us vulnerable to spatial anomalies and to any alien species eager for a piece of hardware. We've taken refuge in a class-nine nebula.
And a class-nine nebula has taken up residence inside Voyager.
Janeway and Kim, outfitted with gas masks, wend their way through the vapor-choked corridors. Janeway finds a panel and begins punching in commands. No effect. "Come on! Don't do this to me now!" she shouts at Voyager. "Emergency force fields are holding, so how the hell did all this gas get inside?"
"Looks like a malfunction in the ventilation system," Kim suggests. They move to the ventilation controls on the other side of the corridor, pop open a panel, reach for a chip--and get a nasty shower of sparks for their troubles.
"The gas corroded the circuit relays," Kim says. "Let's bypass," Janeway says, coughing.
"We've got three minutes of air left," Kim notes nervously.
"How long can you hold your breath?" Janeway asks with a half-smile through the mask.
Harry doesn't dare respond.
Doctor and Janeway enter the bridge. It looks more like the inside of the "1001 uses for duct tape" booth at Hardware Universe. Ensign MacGuyver's private stash looks pretty well used up at this point. Torres is slaving away at an engineering station.
Doc is chasing after Janeway, who appears to have gathered her second wind with a vengeance. "Ensign Kim found time to be treated. So can you."
"How is Harry?" Janeway asks as she marches.
"He'll be fine, but I'm surprised he didn't asphyxiate. I told you eight minutes on that deck; not eight and a half, not nine, and certainly not 12."
"Would you rather have an indoor nebula?" asks Janeway. "If we didn't stop it then and there, it would have flooded another two decks." Without slowing her pace, she asks Torres about the engines. The news isn't good: one nacelle is down for the moment. The other is out for good. Janeway coughs violently as she tells Torres to focus on the salvageable one.
Doc tells Janeway he wants her off her feet for 48 hours. Janeway says she's too busy.
"There are seven other crew members on board. You're Captain. Delegate."
It's a good point. But captains traditionally make lousy patients, particularly in times of crisis. Janeway is no exception. Janeway tells Doc to pump her full of trioxin. Doc points out that trioxin is a stopgap measure only; she needs proper treatment. "Doctor's orders."
"Captain's orders: Trioxin, now." Janeway's voice ensures that debate ends here.
"Aye, aye," Doc says, resigned. "It's your body. Who am I to judge? I'm only the chief medical officer. What do I know?" He's hurt by her refusal to listen to him...but I imagine that over the past two months, they've had this exchange repeatedly. He injects her, sighs, packs up his medical instruments, and moves on to the next inevitable medical crisis.
Torres notes the exchange, but says nothing.
Janeway gets back to work with Torres...but begins a fresh round of painful coughing.
The condition of the ship, and captain, would appear mirror each other at this point. Or as close to a mirror as duct tape--the only remaining reflective surface on board--can provide.
* * *
The first light to encroach the darkness of a darkened prison cell is always the harshest.
Chakotay looks like hell. Goatee grows in raggedly. Sideburns cling for dear life. He still sports the same grime-crusted uniform and body parts he had when he was beamed off of Voyager. He squints to avoid the light.
Actually, he looks exactly as he did at the moment he was taken. Appropriate--he's on the time ship. Time stands still here. Your last meal or shower is the last you'll ever need. You never grow old. Physical needs are a thing of time--and time has no meaning here except as something to be manipulated.
But something has changed. The doors fly open, light assaults his senses, and a Krenim hauls him roughly to his feet and out the door.
The utter dark emptiness of Chakotay's "quarters" is contrasted sharply by a scene of bright light and abundant food.
Chakotay--showered, shaven, and dressed in clean Krenim clothing--is escorted to Annorax's quarters where Annorax--and a meal fit for the gods--awaits.
"Well...You look rested," says Annorax pleasantly.
"Where's my crewmate?" demands Chakotay.
"He should have been here by now. No doubt he's making himself difficult. I've never seen such an...intransigent young man."
It would seem that Helm Boy has not been a model prisoner.
"You've had us in isolation for two months," Chakotay says headedly. "We've been scanned, poked and prodded. How do you expect us to act?"
"With some degree of dignity and restraint," rumbles Annorax with dignified, restrained, undiguised irritation. "Your crewmate has none."
Chakotay doesn't bother to argue; he's thought or said the same thing more than once. "What do you want from us?"
"At the moment...information."
"Anything for such a charming host," says Tom Paris, entering the room.
"Are you all right?" he asks. Chakotay nods. They do a quick visual verification of each other's condition.
"The galley," Annorax says grandly, "has prepared a selection of unique delicacies. You won't find them anywhere else in the galaxy. Please, join me." He gestures to two seats at the far end of the table. Paris and Chakotay consider the offer, then sit.
Annorax serves the two himself. "Malkothian spirits--an extremely rare vintage," Annorax says, holding up a clear decanter bearing a liquid with the hint of pink. "The only bottle known to exist." He fills their glasses.
"Your Captain said that, uh...your vessel is trying to reach home. I hadn't realized how far your home was. You're an anomalous component--alone, disconnected, impossible to predict. [laughs] You have no idea how you've complicated my mission."
"Glad to hear it," says Paris, crossing his arms.
Annorax doesn't rise to the bait. "When I first encountered your vessel it was badly damaged, barely functioning." His eyes bore into Chakotay, whom he correctly identifies as the less intransigent of the two. "What if I told you that in the blink of an eye I could restore Voyager to its former condition? That you and I would never have met? That you might even find yourself closer to the Alpha Quadrant?"
Chakotay, slowly, reacts to this suggestion. Paris isn't impressed.
"I can control the destiny of a single molecule, or an entire civilization." More or less, he doesn't say. He wouldn't have been at this for 200 years if his control was absolute. But as we've already seen from part I, mucking about with the space-time continuum isn't an exact science. Especially with Voyager coughing into his petri dish.
"How's the wine?" Annorax asks. "Excellent," admits Chakotay. Paris is focusing on the food at the moment and doesn't reply.
"This bottle is the only component left of the once powerful Malkoth race. Everything else about them--cities, culture, the very species itself--never existed...because of me." Annorax's voice is an odd mix of pride and shame. "Every dish you see here comes from a civilization that has been erased from time. Mr. Paris, you're devouring the last remnants of the Alsuran Empire.
Paris' interest in his salad diminishes in an instant.
"I have collected artifacts from...hundreds of worlds. This vessel is more than a weapon. It's a museum of lost histories." His tone is wisftul; these remnants of lost cultures represent his efforts to restore his people's lost glory (and something on Kyana Prime)--and also a failure to achieve his objectives. Each incursion, every species erased from history, has so far been sacrificed in vain. Annorax knows this, and the strain of it is clear in his voice.
"You two gentlemen almost became artifacts yourselves. But I've decided to spare your vessel."
Naturally, Paris asks why. His voice is filled with suspicion, not curiosity.
"Call it an act of compassion. You're trying to reach home. In a way, so am I. We can work together to achieve both our goals."
Chakotay asks what he proposes. "In order to make the calculations required to restore Voyager I need to know about some of your experiences in this quadrant--what species you interacted with, how other components were affected by your presence--"
The past two months, Paris and Chakotay have been interrogated. Though the conditions may be an improvement, Paris concludes, the questions haven't changed. "You can't find her, can you?" Paris' tone is mocking. "I think Captain Janeway has been eluding you for the past two months. Otherwise, you would've destroyed Voyager by now."
Paris' lack of table manners lights a fire under Annorax, who lets some of his formidable self-control slip. "I'm offering you a way out of this situation. You accept my offer...or when I do find Voyager, I will destroy it."
Ah. Naked threats. Just gotta make sure Annorax really is a bad guy.
"And how many civilizations will you have to erase to send us merrily on our way?" Paris demands. "No thanks. We don't want that kind of blood on our hands." Paris rises to go, a grand gesture of righteous indignation.
"Tom, hold on," Chakotay orders. He doesn't say, "Whaddya mean we, white man?" But he might as well. Paris is shocked that Chakotay doesn't back him up; he assumed his reaction to Annorax' offer was the obvious one.
Chakotay turns to Annorax. "You said you could control the destiny of a single molecule. If you made a precise enough calculation could you restore Voyager without harming anyone?"
"It is possible...but it's extremely difficult. That's why I need your cooperation."
Cooperation is the last thing Paris intends to give. "I'd rather spend a year in solitary confinement than listen to any of this," he scoffs.
"Tom, have a seat." Chakotay says, his voice hard.
"Chakotay, we can't trust him!"
"You're correct," Annorax agrees. "Given the circumstances, there is no reason to trust me. But trust isn't necessary. We need each other."
Paris makes it clear he wants to leave. He doesn't buy into Annorax' suggestion. He's not even browsing.
Annorax calls in Obrist and instructs him to take Paris to his new quarters. "I'll do everything in my power to make you comfortable here, Mr. Paris. All I ask in return...is that you keep an open mind."
Three words, Time Boy: not bloody likely.
Paris exits with Obrist, his mind already made up.
Annorax watches the door close behind Paris and Obrist, then decides to focus on Chakotay. "I was very impressed with your question. You seem to understand the subtleties of time."
Chakotay laughs. "Professor Vasbinder might've disagreed with you. I failed his course in temporal mechanics."
"Beyond study and instrumentation, there is instinct. Not everyone has the ability to truly perceive time...its colors, its moods." We get the sense that on this ship, Annorax doesn't have many--or any--colleagues who share that ability. "Perhaps you do," he says hopefully.
Chakotay considers Annorax's words. Unlike the other Krenim he's met the past several months, Annorax appears to be the sanest of the lot--a man who understands and feels the consequences of his actions. A man who wants to Do the Right Thing.
Chakotay smiles. "I'm certainly willing to give it a try."
Two crystal wineglasses are raised in a toast.
Seven dented metal coffee cups are raised in a toast.
"To distant friends," declares B'Elanna Torres. Doc, Neelix, Tuvok, Seven, Kim and Janeway add their voices to the chorus of good cheer. They drink.
They gag. Whatever they're drinking is definitely not of the same caliber as Malkothian spirits. Seven's grimace is the most obvious.
"Well?" Neelix asks expectantly.
"Interesting," says Tuvok neutrally.
"Not bad. Not bad at all," says Kim bravely.
"What...is it...exactly?" asks Torres, avoiding the question entirely.
(Adverb Boy strikes again...)
"I call it 'The elixir of endurance,'" says Neelix, appropriately. "It's loaded with amino acids, carbohydrates--all the nutrients necessary for the crew to withstand these stressful conditions."
"Ration cubes," mutters Torres.
"Well, yes, yes, but this time, pureed and mixed with water and enhanced with Talaxian spices."
Seven, who learned her table manners from Tom Paris, throws in her two credits. "It is offensive," she states flatly.
"Fortunately," she adds, "taste is irrelevant."
Her sense of humor is improving. Tuvok's influence, no doubt.
Janeway aks for a status report. Doc's fixed a flaw in his program's optronic algorithm. Kim's got the power grid up to 32%, but hopes to have it up to 50% in a few days. Torres' news is the worst: at least three weeks to get the starboard nacelle functioning.
Janeway, staring out the window to the fluffy pink sanctuary of the nebula surrounding them. Her impatience is palpable. "I thought this nebula would be a safe haven until we finished repairs, but it's turning into a permanent residence. We've got to get back into open space, find allies, put together a fighting force to take on Annorax."
Action Kate makes a decision. "We're leaving this damn cloud first thing tomorrow morning."
"Captain, you are in error," Seven of Nine says for all to hear.
The room goes dead silent. Three cowboys in another corner of the room leave their sasparilla glasses spinning as they duck under the table.
"Really?" asks Janeway levelly.
"At the moment this vessel is defenseless," says Seven. "We should remain here until we are functioning at our peak efficiency."
"I appreciate your opinion, Seven, but I disagree," says Janeway. "We leave tomorrow, 0800 hours." She leaves the rest of the crew to shift in their seats and gag down the rest of the Elixir of Endurance.
Seven escorts Tuvok through the corridors, helping him avoid the worst of the debris.
"It is inappropriate to contradict the Captain in front of the crew," tells her.
"That was not my intention. I simply pointed out that her decision was wrong."
"In your view," Tuvok says.
"And yours. I know you well enough to say that."
"Then you should also know that my trust in Captain Janeway is absolute. The decision you or I might have made is irrelevant."
Seven considers this. Despite her trial by fire the past several months, she's still learning to fit into the chain of command. Fortunately for her, nobody knows protocol like Tuvok. And their communications styles are mutually compatible.
"As a Borg, I submitted to a single authority--the Collective. Over the past several months I've been encouraged to think and act as an individual. It is--difficult to know when to restrain myself."
"Remember this guideline: the Captain is always right."
Remember this "guideline." And note it's application on Voyager, and on the time-ship; in last week's episode, and this.
"Even when you know her logic is flawed?" asks Seven.
Tuvok considers this. "Perhaps."
They continue their walk through the corridor.
Chakotay points to the ceiling-high view of the time stream. "Component 37329 -- a rogue comet. About eight months ago, Voyager made a course correction to avoid it. According to my calculations, it led to our entering Krenim space."
Apparently, Chakotay's taking Temporal Incursions 101 with Professor Annorax.
Annorax smiles. "Your solution, then, would be to erase that comet from history."
"Exactly. Voyager would have stayed on its course and bypassed Krenim space altogether."
Annorax waves to the controls. "Sounds simple enough. Conduct a simulation."
Chakotay enters the commands. The screen changes. The myriad wavy lines show a hideous jumble of frayed ends. My guess is that this wasn't the desired effect.
"What happened?"asks Chakotay, horrified.
Annorax smiles like a patient instructor. "Had you actually eradicated that comet, all life within 50 light years would never have existed." He taps at the controls and assesses the damage as Chakotay stares at the floor. "Congratulations," he chuckles. "You almost wiped out 8,000 civilizations."
The reason hits Chakotay in an instant. "I didn't consider the entire history of the comet." Annorax proceeds to give it to him: the comet struck a planet, and promoted the formation of life. Over time, that life became several great civilizations.
This time stuff is trickier than he thought.
"Past, present and future: they exist as one," says Annorax intensely, imparting what he considers his greatest lesson. "They breathe together."
It's time to learn what drives Annorax. Let's hear it from him, shall we?
"You're not the only person to make this mistake. When I first constructed this weapon ship I turned it against our greatest enemy, the Rilnar. The result--was miraculous. With the Rilnar gone from history, my people--in an instant--became powerful again...but there were problems. A rare disease broke out among our colonies. Within a year, 50 million were dead.
"I had failed to realize that the Rilnar had introduced a crucial antibody into the Krenim genome...and my weapon had eliminated that antibody as well."
Chakotay understands. "And you've been trying to undo that damage ever since--but each time you pull out a new thread, another one begins to unravel."
Annorax' shoulders slump. His face takes on a tortured, nauseous look: "You can't imagine the burden of memory that I carry--thousands of worlds, billions of lives...gone, brought back, gone again. I try to rationalize the loss--they're not really being destroyed, because they never existed."
"Sometimes I can...almost convince myself."
Well, at least he feels guilty about it. It makes him far more interesting. Heck, in the 20th century he'd go on the talk show circuit, bare his soul, and soon he'd be swimming in endorsement offers, get his own talk show. So what if he's killed billions? He means well.
Chakotay senses the remorse, the misgivings, in Annorax. He sees an opening. "You've been at this for 200 years, Annorax. What makes you think you're ever going to succeed?"
Oy. Not the best choice of words.
Annorax turns on Chakotay, his eyes burning. "What makes you think Voyager will ever reach Earth? The odds against you are astronomical. Yet, you keep trying."
Chakotay concedes the point. "You're right...But we don't destroy everything that stands in our way."
No...just enough to clear a path. There are a lot fewer Kazon, Vidiians, Swarm, Borg and 47s, just to name a few, to Voyager's aft. Oh sure, most of them had it coming.
Annorax presses the advantage. "You can help me to change that, Chakotay. Together, we'll restore the Krenim and Voyager and we'll undo the damage that I've caused."
Join the cause; rally 'round the flag. Find the clues I've missed; save the day. You Starfleet types love to do that.
"I've still got a lot to learn," Chakotay admits.
Annorax smiles. "Come. It's time I show you the heart of this vessel: the temporal core."
Voyager gets pelted by thousands of incoming micro-meteoroids.
Janeway calls for engines to get them out of there, but Torres says she's still working on it. Kim points out that the deflectors are down and the incoming rocks are doing damage to the hull. Janeway orders emergency power directed to the deflector; Tuvok says there's none to direct.
Janeway says she'll take care of it. She gives Tuvok the bridge and heads for deflector control, despite Tuvok's warnings that the area is considered Hazard Level Four (which is very hazardous indeed.) "I know," says Janeway, who goes anyway.
She runs through the halls, uses the manual controls to push open the door to deflector control--and is repelled into the wall behind her by a wall of flame.
Her eyes roll upward. "Oh, why do I get the feeling you're testing me, Voyager?" she asks.
If Time is the nemesis of Annorax, Janeway's foil of the moment is the good lady Voyager herself.
Janeway asks how the engines are coming; they're still down, and the damage from the micro-meteors is increasing. Janeway makes her decision, and tells them to prepare to activate deflectors, and to send the Doc down and prepare to find one flame-broiled captain, medium well. "I'm going in." Tuvok begins to object. Janeway cuts him off.
She picks up a piece of bulkhead. "Be kind..." she begs of Voyager, before running into the flames.
Kim reports that the Captain's accessed manual control. "She's stabilizing the particle emitters. She's got it! deflectors on-line!
"Activating deflector field," says Tuvok. The rumbling of a thousand collisions halts instantly. The ship is safe again...for the moment.
Tuvok hails Janeway. No response. He tries again. Nothing. Kim and Torres stare blankly ahead, horrified by the silence.
Inside the inferno, Janeway is unconscious. The skin of her arms and face bubble from third-degree burns.
In the mess hall, Doc applies a hypospray to Janeway, who lies unmoving on a makeshift operating bed. He hesitates; every second of unconsciousness is that much more rest than she's allowed herself in months. But he knows he can't delay this moment forever.
She awakens, flat on her back, her jacket removed, leaving only a grimy, sleeveless blue undershirt. Her arms are disfigured from her recent efforts in deflector control. So is her face; one cheek is marred by a long, deep scar. "What's my condition?" she asks softly. He tells her that 60% of her body had received third-degree burns. "I've healed most of them but without a dermal regenerator I couldn't repair all the damage. You've been left with scars on your face and arms."
Janeway sits up. Her hair is also cracked and dried from her experience--she's lucky to have any of it left. She stares at her arms and grimaces. But Janeway has never suffered from physical vanity. "I'll consider them mementos," she says.
She rises to leave. Doc restrains her with a word. "You're spending the next few days here with me."
"what for?" she asks. "Observation," he says. "Is there something else wrong with me?" she asks. "Not physically," he says after some hesitation.
Uh-oh. This could get ugly. "What are you suggesting?" she demands.
"Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Symptoms: irritability, sleeplessness, obsessional thoughts, reckless behavior-- all of which you've demonstrated over the last few weeks."
Janeway puts her hands on her hips. "My only obsession is with saving my ship--my people! If I've been taking some reckless chances in order to do that, it's hardly a medical condition." She moves to leave.
"I'm not going to stand here while you rationalize another brush with death," Doc insists. "As chief medical officer I have the authority to relieve you of your command." She says he won't do that. "If, in my medical opinion, your judgment has been impaired, I can. And I will."
Janeway doesn't respond well to threats. But you knew that. "Try it and I'll shut down your program."
Doc frowns sadly. "That threat in itself is evidence of your unstable condition." She apologizes for her words; I've been operating on instinct for so long I did not think before I spoke. I have no intention of deactivating you. But I won't stay in this mess hall."
The Doctor considers her words, and her actions. "Is that final?"
He makes his decision. His tone becomes formal. "Then you leave me no choice. Captain Kathryn Janeway: under Starfleet medical regulation 121, Section A, I, the chief medical officer, do hereby relieve you of your active command, effective immediately." He gestures back to the bed. "Have a seat," he begs softly.
It's official. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Janeway, the stickler for Starfleet protocol, has a choice. The chain of command...or her convictions about the best course of action.
It's an easy choice.
Janeway smiles sadly. "How do you plan to implement this protocol, Doctor? Mr. Tuvok doesn't have a security team; both the brigs have been destroyed; and with the internal force fields off-line you'll have a hell of a time keeping me confined."
She bores into him with her eyes. "You'd better grab a phaser because before I give up command, you'll have to shoot me."
Remember the guideline: the captain is always right. Perhaps even when her logic is flawed. But logically...who's left to lead? The ship is left only with specialists at the moment, each kept too busy by what tasks they have now. Only Janeway has the ability to function in this capacity, even in her current condition.
Doc, however, is shocked by Janeway's reaction. "You realize this incident will be noted in my official logs. By refusing my orders, you risk a general court-martial."
Janeway smiles thinly. "Compared to what I've been through the past few months? A court-martial would be a small price to pay. If we make it back home...I'll be happy to face the music."
The most discouraging thing about this exchange is that she said "if" rather than "when." It has been Janeway's indomitable will and faith in reaching home that has brought them this far.
* * *
Janeway and Neelix scan the corridors looking for the next batch of repairs to make. Today's targets appear to be ruptured EPS conduits, fluidic converters, and gravitational plating. Janeway ticks off the needed repairs, and Neelix writes them down.
Before he can stop himself, Neelix remarks that the trashed room to their right is Chakotay's quarters.
They enter. We note a few familiar belongings, such as the upholstered chair from "Scientific Method." Janeway scans the room looking for critical defects. The room is unrecognizable as habitable quarters.
Her scan picks up something metallic. She moves aside some debris, and gasps.
She sees the silver fob and pocket watch that Chakotay had offered her for her birthday.
Janeway kneels down and brushes aside the dirt, caresses it as the treasured object it is, picks it up in her scarred hand. "You disobeyed orders...." she whispers to the watch.
As one scofflaw to another, she now finds Chakotay's violation (I think) incredibly endearing. It's like making contact with Chakotay himself--and with him, the story behind the gift and the hope that she had apparently lost.
Operating on instincts isn't a life. True survival ultimately requires hope. She clutches the chain like a lifeline to a better future.
"Captain?" Neelix asks, concerned by her change in mood.
Janeway doesn't turn around. "Chakotay gave this to me five months ago--a birthday gift. I ordered him to..."
Her voice catches. That meal, that hypospray...they no longer matter. She wishes she could retract those words from that day. She vows that the giver of the gift will know that it was finally accepted.
She attaches the watch to her waist. She models it for Neelix--the shiny antique it looks hideously out of place on her...and yet it suits her perfectly.
"What do you think?" Janeway asks.
Neelix smiles. "Handsome," he beams.
Janeway gives her first warm smile in months. "Come on."
Things are looking up for a change.
Paris and Obrist seem to be hitting it off. They're playing a game. Since Tom is jumping his silver pieces over Obrist's silver pieces, call it Krenim Checkers.
If Chakotay hasn't quite mastered the delicate science of Krenim temporal mechanics, Paris has perfected the fine art of Krenim games of chance.
"Astounding!" Obrist declares as Paris chuckles.
"Not really. I get lucky now and again."
They're bonding. Big time. The two young men, both subordinates of "visionary" senior officers, are more pragmatic. Both have recently questioned their superiors. And both submitted when the order was finally given. But neither has entirely given up their belief in the best course of action.
Did I say Obrist reminded me of Brandon Walsh from 90210? I take it back. He reminds me of Harry Hamlin from LA Law. The voice in particular.
"Your end game sequence, it, uh...it was the same one favored by my brother," Obrist says, impressed.
"To quote a long lost friend of mine," says Paris, gathering his winnings, "'it seemed logical.'"
"Long, lost friend" wasn't the best choice of words. Obrist's face falls. He stares at the ceiling, lost in thought.
"Now what?" asks Paris when he notices the change in his companion.
"I used to honor the day of his birth," says Obrist blankly.
"My brother," he says sadly. Once he begins, he cannot stop. He needs to tell someone; he's been holding this in for a long, long time. "And my parents, my closest friends. Every year, at first. And then one day, I realized--a century had passed...and for years, I had been celebrating birthdays...for the dead."
Paris stares. He recognizes something in Obrist. Something important.
Obrist is staring at two centuries of service aboard the time ship. "Or for people who never even existed." The burden of guilt and sorrow borne by Annorax, Obrist shares as Annorax's right-hand man. But unlike Annorax, Obrist is looking for an end to it all, regardless of whether the objective on Kyana Prime is reached.
Paris understands. "I'm sorry," he says sincerely.
Seventy-four days after his release from solitary confinement, Tom Paris gets an idea. And an ally.
In his quarters, Chakotay pores over his temporal calculations.
Paris enters, looks outside to make sure he wasn't followed, and breathes a heavy sigh when the door closes.
"You can put that thing down, Chakotay. no need to strain your eyes anymore. I've got a plan."
Smooth, Dilbert. Way to butter up the pointy-haired boss.
Chakotay looks up. "Let's hear it." He instantly returns to the padd and his calculations, but he's listening.
More or less.
Paris tells him that the ship's temporal core keeps the vessel out of phase with normal space-time, but its shields are incredibly weak. "You take that core off-line, and a photon grenade could penetrate the hull."
Chakotay looks up from his padd again. "How do you know all this?"
Simple research, Tattoo Dude. Chakotay took his class field trip to the temporal core with Professor Annorax, but he went to learn how it works--not how to disable it.
Paris, never fond of the idea, looked for more subversive approaches to their problem. And found one.
"I've been spending time with our friend Obrist, who seems more than willing to share information. And that's not all--does the name Captain Bligh mean anything to you? This is not a happy crew. They've been at this for 200 years now. They're tired of it, Chakotay. They want it to end!"
In technical terms, this is called a Golden Opportunity.
Chakotay compliments him on a job well done. But Bligh does mean something to the Commander--and he prefers that Paris not consider himself Mr. Christian just yet. He tells Paris to put off the mutiny for now. "Keep gathering information. lie low. I'm starting to make progress on the temporal calculations. With a little time and luck I think we can get the Krenim back on their feet, and Voyager back to the alpha quadrant."
As Chakotay talks, Paris shakes his head. He disapproves of the temporal incursion method. His face falls when he realizes Chakotay is ignoring a Golden Opportunity, instead placing their hopes on One More Calculation and the press of the magical button of temporal realignment. He tells Chakotay he's beginning to sound like Annorax.
"This can work," insists Chakotay. "If you'd take the time to listen you'd understand what Annorax is trying to do."
"What? Wipe out civilizations to help his own race? I understand perfectly!" He can't keep the heat from his voice.
Neither can Chakotay. He rises to his feet and begins pacing. "It's more complicated than that! Annorax is an enlightened man--misguided, but I think he wants this to end as much as anyone."
Paris looks sadly at Chakotay. "I guess I don't have the Instinct For Time or whatever it is Captain Nemo out there calls it. Chakotay, he's been flattering you...and it's gone to your head."
Nemo, Bligh...any other suggestions?
I have one. Kurtz.
And Chakotay is starting to sound like the Russian.
In a high-tech village removed from the streams of Time in the heart of galactic darkness, Paris finds himself in the role of the Company Man sent to deal with Kurtz. And finds a man who should know better seduced by the Enlightened Man with the Big Ideas.
Only Paris has seen the manuscript: "Exterminate all the brutes!" scrawled by trembling hand in ink the color of Malkothian spirits.
Paris may speak the truth, but his tact is about as sophisticated as Holodoc's. "You're out of line, Lieutenant," Chakotay says, eyes and voice like flint.
Paris backs down just a little. He sighs, tries another tack. "Maybe I shouldn't start a mutiny. But I might be able to get Obrist to help us send a message to Captain Janeway."
Chakotay shakes his head. "Not yet--if you get caught, we lose everything." This seems reasonable.
"I can get us out of this," Chakotay adds.
This does not.
Paris knows what Chakotay means. He knows that Chakotay may be staring at him, but that his heart is drawn to that padd on the table and the scientific solution it promises.
The problem is, though Chakotay's a scientist, he's also a Pointy-Haired Boss...and he's been listening too intently to the OTHER Pointy-Haired Boss, who takes his cues from Marketing--the rosy promise of Robust Features and Bug Free Code.
Paris, and Obrist, are engineers. It is their job to implement the dictates of Marketing and Pointy Haired Bosses. Dictates that look good in the demo, but which usually involve dividing by zero, curing all known diseases, costing a dollar, and tasting like chocolate. And they want it yesterday.
Engineers don't like Marketing much.
And Tom Paris doesn't like putting his fate, and Chakotay's, and Voyager's, and for that matter the entire galaxy's fate in the hands of temporal manipulation--a two hundred year experiment that in his eyes, and in the eyes of many of Annorax' crew, has done far more harm than good.
"I can get us out of this," Chakotay said.
Paris makes his decision. "Not if I get us out of here first." He moves toward the door.
Chakotay grabs him by the arm. "You're not doing anything against Annorax.
Paris says nothing, stares defiantly at Chakotay. "That's an order," he adds.
Paris smirks--the worst thing he can do under the circumstances. "What are you going to--do take away my Holodeck privileges?"
Paris may have a point, but it's a challenge to Chakotay's authority that goes beyond insubordination and into open contempt for Chakotay's "plan."
Paris has never been much for rank; he calls Janeway ma'am instead of Captain. He refers to his fellow officers by name rather than rank. The only time he tends to mention rank is when he pulls it. Usually with Torres.
What did B'Elanna say to him in Day of Honor? "Now you're a stubborn, domineering pig."
Not always...but he has his moments. "Nemesis" comes to mind.
I'm not certain...but I have a feeling Captain Kirk was like this as a Lieutenant.
As long as I'm ranting...If there's an overriding theme in Year of Hell, it's this: "You'd better--" "Or what?" To recap:
What's the message? "Orders are made to be broken?" "Question authority?" "Anarchy Rules?"
I think a more general rule applies to this episode: "old people suck." Because in each case, the one giving the ordering is older, and the one defying the order is younger, and the audience is more likely to side with is younger.
Not exactly Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, but when you're shooting an action epic, it's as good as "I'll be back."
If you don't like "Old people suck," how about, "the exception proves the rule"? It wreaks havoc on the chain of command, but as they teach you at Starfleet Academy, doing the right thing must sometimes override the chain of command. Janeway tells Doc that she'll happily face the music if they make it home. Seven pays for her insubordination and its consequences by assuming responsibility as Tuvok's personal assistant. Paris will no doubt eagerly spend some time in the brig if and when they make it back to Voyager alive; he prefers that to living with using the time weapon.
Paris has already begun using the names of captains who richly deserved mutiny; it's on his mind, and he feels justified in so acting. He'd love to have Chakotay's help...but he threatens to act without it. If it's mutiny, it's mutiny--but he believes it's the right thing to do.
Anyway. Back to the episode. Chakotay has just ordered Paris to take no action without his say-so. Paris has said "you take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll get to Janeway before ya."
Chakotay stares hard at Paris. "Either we maintain our command structure or else we settle our differences the old-fashioned way."
Paris looks like he's been waiting for this moment for more than three years. And has been working out in preparation for it. (Dare I mention for the benefit of the P/T crowd that Paris' outfit is an open-collar shirt that shows off his chest?)
But before we get the mother of all grudge matches, alarms sound throughout the ship. Their argument momentarily forgotten, Paris and Chakotay head for the bridge.
Chakotay asks what's happening. Obrist explains that they're preparing for a temporal incursion. He turns to Annorax and asks, "What incursion? you didn't say anything..."
He has never seen this side of Annorax: the man on a mission, set in his course. "I had an inspiration last night. By my calculations the eradication of the Ram Izad species will result in a 52% restoration of the Krenim time line."
Since their abduction, Annorax has not used his time weapon (except immediately after, when the ship nearly destroyed Voyager before it escaped). "I thought we were working to avoid more destruction," Chakotay says plaintively. Paris is ashen.
"When time offers you an opportunity you don't ignore it," Annorax says dismissively.
"We're within range of their home world," Obrist announces. He risks an apologetic look at Paris.
"Take us into orbit. Full power to the weapon. Prepare for total erasure."
Paris snorts. "Is this what you call enlightened?" he asks Chakotay.
The preparations continue.
"Please. This isn't necessary," begs Chakotay. "We'll find another way."
Annorax, seated, looks at Chakotay. He looks at the screen. He looks at Chakotay. He wavers.
"Fire." The word, when it comes, is bloodless.
We've heard the drill before. All is going according to expectations. Annorax goes to his quarters and asks for the results when they're ready. Obrist acknowledges, but his heart is not in it.
Paris, who had been standing by Obrist, moves to Chakotay and gets in his face. "Have you seen enough yet, Chakotay? If you don't do something about this maniac, I will."
Chakotay enters Annorax' office. "You didn't need to fire on that planet!"
"I am altering history on a massive scale. The destinies of countless star systems are in my hands. The fate of one species is insignificant."
Uh oh. This is going to be a tough sell.
"You're trying to rationalize genocide," Chakotay says harshly. "One species is significant. A single life is significant."
This comment stops Annorax cold. His dispassionate demeanor dissolves. His voice cracks. "It seemed so...easy the first time. In the blink of an eye, I had changed history itself. Allowed my people to thrive again. But when I changed history a second time, I lost more than you can imagine."
"The colony on Kyana Prime," Chakotay suggests softly.
"How could you know that?" Annorax demands.
"I've been studying your previous incursions. No matter how close you get to restoring the time line, one component is always missing...Kyana Prime. Who was on that colony? Who did you lose?"
Annorax' voice is thready. "my wife...and with her my future. My children, grandchildren--all erased because of me."
A single life is significant, indeed.
Annorax points to the pyramid. It is, as some of you suggested, a lock of red hair. "This is all I have left of her. So many years I worked through the night while she was sleeping. How could I have known I was...calculating her fate?"
Time giveth, and Time taketh away. "I can't stop until I've restored Kyana Prime and forced Time to give me back my wife."
What's that law of physics? "For each action there is an equal and opposite reaction"?
What's that old commercial? "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature"?
Forcing Time to bend to your will is like herding cats. Good luck, Sparky.
Annorax tells Chakotay that Time really does have moods--and that some of them are
malevolent. "Time itself has tried to punish me for my arrogance. It has kept me from my wife,
denied me my future."
Oy. Time Boy's lost it....
Obrist enters and announces that a 52% restoration of the Krenim timeline has been restored. (This news, incidentally, is bad news for Voyager, which doesn't have much defense left against fully-functioning Krenim warships.) Unfortunately for all concerned, Kyana Prime wasn't part of that restoration. Annorax sighs and tells Obrist to continue scanning the Continuum.
Annorax tries to regain his composure. "I've, uh...I've studied your calculations, Chakotay. They're promising but... premature. We'll keep working on them. In the meantime, my mission must continue."
Chakotay shouts, "You don't have the right--"
"--To fight for what is mine? That's not for you to decide. Only Time can pronounce judgment against me."
I smell a clue....
In Chakotay's quarters, Paris rages. "If that little display doesn't convince you I don't know what will. He's insane."
"No he's not," Chakotay insists. "Wounded, maybe, even tortured, but I can still reach him...convince him to stop."
A word of advice to the Voyager writing staff: if you're looking to make Chakotay look like a true leader, someone the crew would be willing to follow into Hell...this isn't the way to do it.
"Not from what you've told me. This guy thinks that Time has a personal grudge against him. That's called paranoia, Chakotay, with a hint of megalomania."
"You don't know what he's been through," mutters Chakotay.
And frankly, I don't know what Chakotay's going through. Why is he so eager to use the time-stream modification method? He said earlier he thought he could not only help the Krenim (a thoroughly unpleasant species OUTSIDE the timeship), but he could also get Voyager closer to home. What other changes could he be attempting? Docile Cardassians in the Alpha quadrant negating the need for the Maquis? Freedom and peace for his home planet? The restoration of his own father? I can imagine the siren call such a device could generate. Make the right calculations, and the things you regret or dislike the most can be undone.
If the desired change is important enough, the side-effects could be considered irrelevant. We know what Annorax holds that dear. We don't know what Chakotay does, or might.
That would have been interesting to know. And it might have made Chakotay look a good deal less naive. His devotion to Annorax is inexplicable.
Maybe it was something in the Malkothian spirits.
Paris feels like slapping Chakotay upside the head with something large and blunt. But all he has are words--which, so far, haven't been enough. "He's lost his family. Okay, that's a terrible thing. But so has everyone else on this ship--and frankly, so have we!"
[WHAP] Chakotay reacts. Perhaps Paris found the right words after all. He sighs and stops talking about Annorax and the temporal weapon for a change. "What kind of progress have you made?"
Paris exhales, relieved. Finally.... "Obrist is coming around...and I think we can trust him. He says he'll give me access to their communications array. I can send a message to Voyager from the comfort of my own quarters."
Chakotay nods, impressed. "And the temporal core?"
"That's...going to be a little trickier. With Obrist's help, I'm pretty sure I can disable it--but not without setting off every alarm on this ship. We're only going to have one chance."
Chakotay appears to have embraced this plan. "It'll require precise timing. You and me working from within..."
"And Captain Janeway attacking from Voyager..." For the first time, Paris suggests, hesitantly, "that is...if the Captain's still alive."
Chakotay has no doubts about that. "She's alive. Send the message. Transmit our coordinates."
"Done," shouts Paris, who flies toward the door.
"And..." Chakotay calls after him. Paris halts in the doorway.
"Give Kathryn my best."
Paris smiles broadly and exits.
[For the record, Day 207 was one danged eventful day. From Janeway and the watch, to the turning of Chakotay away from his temporal manipulation plan by one Paris came up with that very day. This is the day that the tide is turned, and Lady Luck returns from vacation to find a Voyager that missed her desperately.]
Captain's Log, Stardate 51682.2. I've forged a coalition with the Nihydron and the Mawasi. Together, we're preparing to attack the weapon-ship.
This may be the first time Voyager has led an armada. At six total ships it's not in the same league with the one Defiant led against the Dominion, but it's still an impressive sight.
Even with the monstrous chunk bit out of the left side of the saucer section. The once shiny white hull is now almost black. It doesn't look like it could be successfully towed, let alone move under its own power.
On the now unrecognizable bridge, Janeway addresses her crew. She announces that the transmission is absolutely from Tom Paris, and they now have the exact coordinates of the time ship, about 50 light years away. "Our new allies are assembling reinforcements. Once we're in range, Tom says he'll try to take the weapon-ship's temporal core off-line. When that happens they'll be vulnerable to conventional weapons. Tom will then transmit the exact location of the core. Our job will be to disable the ship and get our people out. Is everyone clear?"
They all say they are.
She sends Torres and Harry to the lead Nihydron vessel to equip them with temporal shields. She sends Tuvok and Neelix and Seven and Doc to the lead Mawasi ship to do the same.
"What about yourself?" Doc asks.
"I'll be piloting Voyager, coordinating the attack," says Janeway, as if that were obvious.
Uh oh. When Janeway drives, people get hurt.
"Captain," says Torres, "there's barely enough of this ship left to get there, much less wage a war."
Hey, that's my starship you're dissing, Lieutenant. "Oh, there's fight in Voyager yet. It's still got temporal shields, six photon torpedoes. It'll hold together. Besides, you know the adage--Captain goes down with the ship, right?" The latter reason seems to be the real one. Janeway knows she's doomed. But she believes she can accomplish the mission first.
"You have your orders. dismissed." She nods to her crewmen one by one. Harry gives the captain a long look before exiting.
Soon all that remain are Seven and Tuvok.
"Tuvok, I can hear your objections already. I am not leaving."
"Given Voyager's damaged state the probability of your surviving an armed conflict is marginal."
Janeway smiles tiredly. "Oh, I know the odds. But I have to stay. Voyager's done too much for us."
"Curious," says Tuvok. "I have never understood the human compulsion to emotionally bond with inanimate objects. This vessel has done nothing. It is an assemblage of bulkheads, conduits, tritanium...nothing more."
He's never owned a classic car, obviously. Much less commanded his own vessel for any length of time.
A Trekkie Moment is about to occur, folks. Pay attention.
"Oh, you're wrong. It's much more than that. This ship has been our home. It's kept us together. It's been part of our family. As illogical as this might sound...I feel as close to Voyager as I do to any other member of my crew. It's carried us, Tuvok...even nurtured us. And right now it needs one of us."
It's more passion than Janeway has been able to muster since this ordeal began. It's a fitting tribute to a ship by her captain.
"I respect your decision," says Tuvok. Illogical as it may be, he seems to understand. He lifts his hand in the traditional Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Captain."
Janeway's months of stoic determination crack just a little. "Same to you...old friend." She gives him a hug...and incredibly, he returns it. As he does, she crushes into him still tighter, knowing it's likely the last one she'll ever have. When they part, Janeway gestures for Seven, who offers Tuvok her elbow. They exit.
Janeway is alone.
Or perhaps not. She has her ship.
She sits in the Big Chair, lets it envelop her.
She stares forward and steels herself for the inevitable.
* * *
[Janeway spent the last month aboard Voyager all by herself?]
The day of truth: the armada nears the Krenim timeship.
Janeway hails the Mawasi and Tuvok answers. She announces the proximity of the timeship and asks for a status report. All ships have temporal shields and are bringing them online.
She grasps her watch, still on her uniform. She leaves the captain's chair and sits at helm.
"This is Captain Janeway to the fleet. Plot an intercept course to the weapon-ship."
Obrist announces that six vessels are approaching: "Three Nihydron warships, two Mawasi cruisers...and Voyager."
Annorax isn't worried. "We're outside space-time--impervious to their weapons. Let them come."
"I know Captain Janeway," Chakotay tells him. "She wouldn't be attacking unless she knew she could do some damage."
Chakotay nods to Obrist, who begins tapping at his controls.
In Paris' quarters, his computer display activates. "Good work, Obrist..." he whispers, and begins furiously tapping controls.
Chakotay continues to talk to Annorax. "If she's given the other ships temporal shielding they've undoubtedly informed their home worlds. They'll be able to protect their planets against your weapon."
Planets with temporal defenses. This is not good news for Annorax.
"Bring the weapon to full power," orders Annorax. "Stand by for multiple incursions. We'll have to disable their temporal shields first; make the necessary calculations."
Obrist complies...but he's already taken his first mutinous step.
Tuvok announces from the Mawasi vessel that all vessels report ready.
"Let's see if Tom has done his part," she says. "Janeway to the fleet. Attack pattern Omega...Engage."
Tom still works at his controls.
Two Nihydron vessels strafe the timeship.
Obrist reports that the temporal core is stable. Annorax orders return fire. As the Nihydron vessels pass in front of the time ship, it unleashes an angry violet stream of temporal mayhem.
Shielded or not, the Nihydron are no match for that barrage. They disappear. Tuvok informs Janeway, who curses under her breath.
"Janeway to the fleet. Evasive pattern Delta. We're going to have to wait."
She stares at the forward viewscreen. "Come on, Tom. Come on...."
Annorax orders Obrist to target the other vessels.
Obrist doesn't comply. He looks at Chakotay.
Annorax repeats the order.
Chakotay stares at Obrist, who stares back...then punches in a few commands.
The lights start to flash. Alarm klaxons ring throughout the time ship. Annorax finally realizes that Time is not the only thing he doesn't have complete control over.
"You're deactivating the temporal core!" he shouts angrily.
"I'm sorry, sir," Obrist says, and genuinely means it; he's followed Annorax for two centuries. "It's over." He punches in some more commands, and Chakotay and Paris disappear from the timeship.
Wait...Obrist doesn't remind me of Harry Hamlin. It's...Johnny Bluejeans!
Look close. I swear it's him.
It's a dignified mutiny, but an effective one. The timeship has lost its greatest advantage.
Annorax shoves Obrist aside; he'll do the job himself. "Get back to your stations! You will not disobey me!"
He discovers that Obrist's disabling of the temporal core was thorough. "We're phasing back into normal space-time. Reconfigure to conventional weapons."
In Annorax's quarters, a lucky teacup falls from its shelf and shatters. The pyramid with the lock of his wife's hair begins to tremble.
Tuvok reports that Chakotay and Paris were beamed aboard the Mawasi vessel.
"Everything's going as planned," Janeway responds. "Tom sent me the coordinates of their temporal core before he left. I'm transmitting them to you now."
Things are looking up for Voyager.
An underling announces that the conventional weapons are ready to go. "Fire at will!" Annorax shouts.
Pulses of light slam into Voyager and the other ships. One strikes the nacelle of the vessel nearest Voyager, which tumbles into Voyager's path. It scrapes along the hull, doing considerable damage before it explodes.
On Voyager, Janeway struggles on hands and knees to reach her captain's chair. When she finally reaches it, she has an unobsctructed view (forcefield only--no bulkhead) of the battle before her. Stuff explodes all around her. There's not much left to pilot.
An underling tells Annorax that the weapons have finished recharging.
"Target Voyager" Annorax says coldly. "Put Janeway out of her misery."
Tuvok reports that none of the other ships have weapons left to fire and asks if Voyager does.
Janeway takes her shields off line, and orders Tuvok to have everyone else do the same. "I'm setting a collision course."
"Captain, we won't be protected," says Tuvok.
"Exactly. If that ship is destroyed all of history might be restored."
That's a big assumption. But okay.
"And this is one year I'd like to forget," she adds.
Nothing like gallows humor at the appropriate moment.
Janeway and Voyager limp into overdrive, aimed for the big blue dot on the time ship.
"Ramming speeeeeeeeed!!!!" Howls Janeway with a gusto not seen since Slim Pickins in DR. STRANGELOVE.
She's awful close now. She braces herself.
Voyager hits the bulls-eye. A wicked-cool slow-motion visual of Voyager crumpling like a beer can against the timeship left this reviewer breathless.
Janeway went down with her ship. And she did it her way--doing as much damage as possible.
The core is destabilizing," shouts Annorax, panic etched on his face. "It's going to cause a temporal incursion within the ship!"
He runs into his office. He passes through the doorway just in time to see the pyramid with his wife's hair in it crash to the ground, much as Janeway's lucky teacup had.
"The horror, the horror!" he shouts.
He has very little time to ponder the meaning of that.
The time ship performs a temporal self-incursion of apocalyptic proportions. Kes didn't look this impressive when she went photonic.
Captain's log, Stardate 51252.3. The past couple of weeks have been uneventful but we've made excellent progress on the new Astrometrics lab.
Voyager, shiny white and free from any unfamiliar blemishes, flies through space under impulse power.
Well, maybe flies is a bit much. Try "saunters."
On the brightly-lit, spit-polished bridge, everyone sits or stands in their proper places.
"When can you bring it on-line?" Janeway asks.
Seven taps a couple of controls. "We just did."
Harry, standing close by Seven at Ops, smiles. "In fact, we're in the process of charting a new course home."
"I'd say this is cause for celebration," she says.
Tuvok reports that a vessel is approaching off the port bow.
A large, mean-looking ship, well familiar to the audience, looms before them.
"They're hailing us," Kim reports.
"Open a channel," Janeway says.
A familiar (to us) Krenim commander looks at them on the forward viewscreen.
Uh oh. It's the Chihuahua.
But wait...he's not whining, he's not shrieking, he's not preening. "You've entered Krenim space," he says politely. "State your identity."
Janeway introduces herself. "Captain Janeway of the Starship Voyager. We're just passing through, trying to get home." She sounds like she's done this a thousand times. It's a mere formality.
"This region is in dispute," the Krenim tells her. "I suggest you avoid our territory."
It's not a threat. It sounds more like a travel advisory. He doesn't get irked because they entered Krenim space. He simply points out the obvious: disputed regions are less safe than undisputed ones.
"Thanks for the warning," Janeway says gratefully.
The Krenim nods. "Good journey," he says, and signs off.
Whoah. These aren't like the Krenim we're used to. He was more like...
Obrist. Even Annorax, in his better moments.
But nobody onboard knows who those people are.
First contact: signed, sealed, delivered.
"Tom, plot a course around Krenim space," Chakotay says.
"Aye, sir," Paris says, and makes the course correction.
"So what do you think-- how about a ground-breaking ceremony for our new lab?" Chakotay asks, returning to the only interesting business of the day. Janeway smiles broadly. Kim beams. Seven squares her shoulders and stands proudly, and looks at Harry.
"Sounds great," says Kim.
Janeway leans over to Chakotay and whispers conspiratorially. "I think I'll replicate a bottle of Saint Emillion for the occasion. A 2370--I hear that was a good year."
Oy. Another time joke.
On a beautiful, modern looking world with azure skies and all the signs of flourishing riverside civilization, a tall, beautiful redhead enters a room, standing between two engraved columns reminiscent of ancient Egyptian design. She wears a red outfit. She has a smile that would warm the sun.
"Good morning," she says.
A familiar-looking guy (let's call him Annorax) has been working all night. Again. He sits at his desk, alternating between three data padds.
"Good morning," he says, looking up at her. He returns the smile; how can he not?
"Join me for breakfast?" she asks.
"In a little while. I still have a few more calculations." The padds beckon to him like an addictive substance.
The woman smiles scoldingly. "There are always 'a few more calculations.' It's a beautiful day. spend it with me."
The man stares at the data on the desk. He stares at the smiling redhead.
"I suppose I can make the time," the man says.
Aaaugh! Another time joke!
He rises and takes her hand, and together they head for breakfast.
We get to see the now-ignored padds. On them: a familiar sight.
Temporal incursion calculations....
First things first.
All that Kes stuff I was ranting about last week?
They took care of it.
I never saw it coming.
No Kes references--but the way they handled it, one wasn't necessary.
Now--emotionally, this is still disappointing. I was rooting hard for a Kes reference. You know they could have made one if they wanted to. But...it's done with.
I apologize to Menosky and Braga for threatening to break out the butt-kicking boots and the nekkid Scotsmen. I stuck my neck out prematurely, assuming the worst...and getting blindsided by the ending, which undid every temporal incursion over the past 200 years--including the one in which Kes lived backwards.
As she said in "Before and After," "It's one possible future." The week before, her hair was incredibly short, the style we'd known from the beginning. The week of before and After, she had way long, wavy, ear-obscuring hair.
This week, Janeway's hair changes.
If your significant other's hairstyle changes anytime soon...be afraid. Be very afraid.
Especially if you don't compliment her on it.
Logically, they did an impressive job of wrapping up the whole Krenim thread. It doesn't strictly contradict the events in "Before and After," because any number of temporal incursions could have happened between that episode and "Year of Hell." What happened in Before and After was true at that time. But since then, those events have been erased, and Kes never went backwards in time.
There's a question about how they reached Krenim space in the first place, if in that time period Kes was around to witness those events. This was not explained in Before and After, so we don't know. She only saw moments in history--a few hours in this time of her life, a few days in that. She didn't do a fast reverse through those events; she hopped, skipping over those other events. It wasn't a question at the time that episode aired...it wasn't until "The Gift" and the 9,500 light year push Kes gave them that the logistics issue came up.
Fact is, I have no answer. Krenim space did expand and contract dramatically several times in the Year of Hell, though. Who knows how large it could have gotten...
How large is a parsec, anyway?
Character-wise, this show had plenty to chew on. Some meat...and some gristle.
Among the juicier performances were Mulgrew's Janeway and Kurtwood Smith's Annorax, and John Loprieno's Obrist. The best villains are the ones that don't see themselves that way, with motivations the viewer can relate to. Patriots and mad geniuses make for formidable adversaries...and Annorax is both.
As for Obrist...after two hundred years on the job, he's just eager to go home. His old one is long gone; he'll make one of whatever he can find. If Annorax has a conscience that troubles him...Obrist has a conscience that prompts him to mutiny in a good cause.
In the case of Bligh and Mr. Christian, as with Annorax and Obrist, the latter was loyal...right up to the moment of mutiny. It was significant, I thought, that the real damage was not done by Paris or Chakotay, but Obrist himself.
Krenim, heal thyselves.
I must admit that I don't have a good idea about whether Annorax and his crew are contemporaries of Voyager, or actually lived two centuries before. They didn't specify with a "Day x", so it's a matter for speculation. While in the ship with the core active, they "lived outside time," so they didn't age. It's therefore not unthinkable that they are contemporaries of Janeway and company, whose efforts to restore the Kyana Prime timeline place them in the relatively recent past.
After all, why would Annorax spend two centuries to restore Kyana Prime if those centuries passed in real time? Either way, his wife would be dead, whether by unanticipated disease or the natural passage of time.
Were there parallels between Annorax and Janeway? Was Annorax's anthropomorphic jousts with Time promoted as similar to Janeway's quixotic quest for home, or to her Dorian Grey-like descent into dilapidation with Voyager itself? Are they saying that Action Kate is just as nuts as Time Boy?
"We're both a Long Way from Home" was the parallel Annorax proposed. And both he and Janeway have been diligent to (at times) the point of recklessness about pursuing their agenda. Both are smart folks. Both are, in their way, scientists. And both managed to earn the admiration and loyalty of Commander Chakotay. But beyond that, the similarities end.
This last point puzzles me.
My initial reaction was to be sympathetic to Chakotay, mainly because I was very put off by Paris' attitude. It took a lengthy and occasionally painful debate with a good friend, and several pause-heavy sessions with the episode, for me to decide that the character of Chakotay is, at the very least, ill-served by the writing in this episode.
Annorax was a charismatic figure. And tragic, after a fashion. But genocide (to use Chakotay's own term) is not the sort of act that prompts loyalty in the average (or even below average) Starfleet officer. It makes a character more interesting to have an Achilles Heel or two, but the turns Chakotay has taken episodes like "Scorpion II" and now "Year of Hell II" border on the inexplicable.
If they had shown more than just Chakotay believing in the temporal incursion solution for its own sake, it could have been a far more compelling argument between Chakotay's method and Paris'. Or if they'd taken it in a different direction, and used this rare "away mission" as an opportunity for Paris and Chakotay to have a long-overdue hashing out of their fundamental disagreements--and I know they're still there.
When they first met, long before Janeway pulled Paris out of prison, they served together as Maquis. That Paris was a drunk, a Starfleet pariah, a lost soul. He found the Maquis because it gave him (presumably) a chance to pilot a ship again, be a hero to someone. Chakotay was in the Maquis because he had a personal stake in the outcome--his planet was one being lorded over by the Cardassians, and his father was dead as a result. He fought for home and family.
At the time, Chakotay didn't have a high opinion of Paris, as a Maquis or as a Starfleet officer. Paris' first mission as a Maquis ended in his arrest, so he may have had a point. But people change, and Paris has made great strides in the past three-plus seasons, finally earning some measure of redemption. Janeway and even Tuvok had come to trust Paris by the middle of Season 2.
Chakotay had not. Even in the aftermath of "Investigations," Paris and Chakotay have often sparred, and the jabs have occasionally drawn blood. In fact, "Investigations" seemed to mark an unsettling milestone: Janeway used Chakotay's distrust of Paris against him to trap a former Maquis, rather than come to him directly for assistance. (This seems a step backwards--he was integral in the initial uncovering of Seska in the first season.)
Since "Investigations," I've been waiting for these two to have a "Parturition"-like episode where they have no choice but to heal their old wounds once and for all. This was a golden opportunity to do so...and it was passed by. Instead, Paris gets on Annorax's bad side and gets chummy with the weary crew, while Chakotay gets snake-charmed by an admittedly charming genocidal guru.
It makes Chakotay look bad. Very bad. Paris denigrates Annorax verbally (Nemo and Bligh are hardly compliments), expecting to find common ground...and finds none. He watches Annorax wipe out a civilization, even after pleading with him not to do so, argues at length with Annorax afterwards...and still believes in the temporal solution.
One of the more inexplicable aspects of this is Chakotay's stated desire to help "restore" the Krenim. Why? The only Krenim Chakotay had known for the First Fiscal Quarter of Hell were annoying, vicious, shoot-first yahoos. Why would he want to help make THEM powerful again? Sure, Annorax had a much more compatible disposition, but he is an anomaly in every sense of the word. The Krenim are a species that darn near destroyed Voyager--and while he's working to make sure they never met, all he's doing is making sure other species have to deal with them. Hardly the Starfleet Way.
Granted, a lot happened on Day 207. On Day 206, Paris had no alternate plan; he was just getting to know Obrist, learning how to play their Krenim games. Chakotay was busy working on his temporal calculations, which Paris disapproved of, but he hadn't proposed any alternative. Annorax hadn't wiped out any civilizations in months. On Day 207, Paris learns somethng important, proposes a plan to Chakotay, almost gets in a fight, watches Annorax commit genocide, and delivers an ultimatum to Chakotay while the image is still fresh in mind. And in a very short period of time, Chakotay goes from having the only plan in town to abandoning it in favor of Tom's.
The clinical annihilation of a few billion lives will do that to you.
Enough about Chakotay (though I would dearly like to see more episodes showing us the Commander I remembered so fondly from the first season). Let's talk about Paris.
The guy's starting to piss me off.
You think Chakotay might have been a bit more open to Paris' suggestions if Paris had even a smidgen of tact?
I don't at all mind the idea of a heroic Paris. But the pompous Paris rubs me the wrong way. His attitude did nothing for me in "Nemesis," and it does less for me here. When Chakotay suggested they take the gloves off and settle things the Maquis Way, I was hoping they would. Paris could beat some sense into Chakotay -- and Chakotay could beat some humility into Paris.
I see it as overcompensation for the devil-may-care side of Paris. It's possible to be serious and heroic without being overbearing. And I hope they find a middle ground for him, and soon--this is a side of him I would prefer to see rarely. Not the problem-solving, ally-making Paris who dealt with Obrist--that was fine. I mean the bite-me Paris who would as soon puke on Annorax as talk to him--keep the appearances from THAT Thomas Eugene Paris far, far away from my television screen.
Let me put it another way. I don't want to see Paris look like a hero at the expense of another regular character. Last week, he proposes the Titanic bulkhead solution, Chakotay gives him the credit for the idea, and it's a great scene. Give me more of that.
[Review Boy dons the asbestos trenchcoat and steels himself for the firestorm.]
Kurtwood Smith is a heck of an actor. And because of his performance I wanted to believe he was a good guy--and for a time, I did. Compared to that Krenim commandant, he was at least more polite. He even apologized the first time he tried to destroy Voyager. (The second time, when it was mano a womano, and he said, "put Janeway out of her misery," you knew he was in trouble. Nobody messes with Kate and gets away unscathed.)
In a way, Annorax is like Jetrel--the pursuit of military science overwhelmed them. Jetrel was ultimately destroyed by his invention. Annorax, in Time's ultimate irony, gains what he seeks by having done to him what he dared not do himself--destroy his invention. Instead of fighting Time, hopping in and letting it carry him where it will.
The folks at work were very put off by the whole "reset button" theme. Few of them knew the term, but they recognized what had been done--and it made them mad. (Of course, these are folks who cheered when Voyager slammed into the Krenim vessel, because it meant Janeway was dead, however temporarily. My affinity for Cap'n Kate is not universal.)
I don't mind temporal resets, but I prefer it if SOMEONE remembers. "Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." There was plenty to learn here--the limits of their endurance, for one thing. Which was far beyond what I would have expected. The value of small moments of relief in the midst of that insanity--a watch, a trivial pursuit game, a shared gag over nutritious but disgusting meals.
Bonds forged--Seven and Tuvok in particular. The inventions sired by Mother Necessity that could apply even to a fully-functional Voyager. The successful implementation of the previously unthinkable--forging alliances and taking detours.
Ah well. If nothing else, this episode did give us a look at "one possible future," just as "Before and After" did. Both were undone by the complete restoration of the unsullied timeline, but they did happen long enough for us to see it. And for that duration, we got some bang-up special effects, some very nice character moments, and only a few truly rantworthy bones to pick.
I want to return to Doc's much-maligned speech, which turned out to be quite appropriate.
"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."
We saw strife, discord, and crewmen at each others' throats in this two-parter. Doc was even engaged in several of those instances.
"But over time, I've had the pleasure and pride of watching this crew learn to work together as colleagues, even friends."
We saw many great moments of this as well. Often involving the same characters.
"Who would have thought that this eclectic group of voyagers could actually become a family?"
The Family theme resonated throughout this arc. Janeway returned to it again and again--protecting and preserving the Family and Home.
"Starfleet, Maquis" - a long-awaited reunion of the bantering Kim/Torres.
"Klingon, Talaxian, hologram, Borg--even Mr. Paris."
Funny they should single him out. He was everywhere--in the best of times, and the worst of times.
One consolation I have about the mostly frustrating Paris/Chakotay thread is the reference to family. I recalled the episodes from TNG's fourth season, "Family" and "Brothers." In both, brothers battle brothers--Jean-Luc and Robert Picard, Data and Lore. At the end of "Brothers," Dr. Crusher tells Data, "brothers forgive." Once Paris and Chakotay stopped fighting each other and started working together, Voyager's fortunes turned. It took two more months to come together, but it began there.
"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).
Paris got to save the day--on several occasions. Tuvok was blinded before the first hour was over.
"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--"
And we got to see Doc endure some of the worst of times in this arc.
A final Best of Times for me: Janeway's final hug with Tuvok--a lot of emotion went into that Last Goodbye.
This episode was impressive, though a far slower and more philosophical episode than the first hour. If the ending didn't entirely satisfy, the implications were well-thought out--the "reset" Krenim was more like those on the time-ship. For whatever reason, the temporal incursions had hardened and warped Annorax's people, so the defeat of Chakotay's "enlightened man" turned out to be a victory and salvation for the Krenim species as a whole.
The special effects: wow. Voyager crashing into the Krenim ship was nothing short of jaw-dropping. The characterizations were mostly good, though as I mentioned I had a real problem with the way Paris and Chakotay were written this week. The guest stars were stellar. The Year of Hell was a lesson in endurance, but they managed to throw in some moments of hope as well as horror.
I've gone on long enough.
On a 0-10 scale, I'm giving it a 7.25, or (* * *), and a (* * * 1/2) for the two-parter as a whole.
Next week: Torres gets nabbed by the Thought Police.
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. My brother Tito is also sounding off on this one.