ST: Voyager Liveblog — S1, E3: Time and Again

Paris, who is insufferable, wants Harry, who is boring, to be his wingman for a date with a couple of cartographer twins. Harry says he has a girl back home, and rather optimistically says he thinks she’ll wait for him. Harry is annoyed that Paris, who is insufferable, has been telling lies about him to impress the girls, but before he can really get into it CAMERA TREMORS and WE HAVE PLOT. Tuvok reports to Janeway that Voyager is at the leading edge of a shockwave.

CUT TO: Kes, waking up in her bed with a really bad headache, it looks like. Seriously, she could be in an Excedrin commercial.

Back on the bridge, Janeway is trying to figure out the source of the shockwave. There is a debris cloud in the Red Dwarf system that they are heading toward, and Tuvok reports that it consists of differentially charged polaric ions, which means nothing in real life but Janeway interprets to mean that there was a massive detonation. After asking Neelix if he knows anything about this system and confirming that he doesn’t know anything about anything, she orders a course change so that they can investigate.

Kes comes onto the bridge wearing a snazzy purple pleated sort of top that looks like a Starfleet variation from someone’s Fashion Week “Inspired by” collection. I kind of love it.

Just because I'm frilly doesn't mean I'm not serious.

Just because I’m frilly doesn’t mean I’m not serious.

She enters as the Voyager is scanning the planet, and tells Neelix that she had to know. “Know what?” he asks, but she wisely ignore him and listens as the crew reports finding no vegetation, no satellites, no life signs. She says the last at the same time that Paris does. Kes is carrying a surprising amount of gravitas in this scene, actually.

Scans find artificial waterways and other traces of a civilization, so Janeway decides to take a team down. Tuvok, Paris, and Torres join her, and they beam down to find a whole lot of nothing, which incidentally is the title of the Oral History of Paris’s Love Life, as told by his exes.

Credits. Planets and comets and moons, oh my!

Torres says that the surface of the planet has been seared, and all organic life has been vaporized by a polaric ion explosion. Janeway calls her attention to some energy conduits, and theorizes that the now-destroyed civilization actually ran on polaric ion technology–a technology that had been banned in Federation space sometime before.

Cut to Kes back on Voyager, who is trying to explain to Neelix that she saw what happened. “It was almost telepathic,” she tells him, which is possibly the definition of imprecise. Apparently her ancestors were said to have unusual mental abilities. Neelix says no one believes those stories, but Kes says she always has.

Back on the surface, everyone’s walking slowly around looking at their tricorders, which is so much like life in 2015 that I am sucked into an endless loop of self-referentiality and am now typing this post from inside an episode of the fictional show “Galaxy Quest.” Paris finds a strange timepiece, and starts having flashes of the city before its destruction, with kids playing and people chatting. No one else notices it, and when Torres and Tuvok note that Tom’s nervous system shows a temporal flux and that the chain reaction has shattered subspace, Janeway IMMEDIATELY makes the prudent choice and orders Voyager to beam them all back onboard. THANK YOU FOR GIVING US A COMMANDING OFFICER WHO DOES NOT DRAG HER FEET ON MAKING REASONABLE AND IMPORTANT DECISIONS FOR THE SAKE OF SAFETY.

Buuuuuut it doesn’t work. Instead Janeway and Paris are both jumped back in time, without Tuvok or Torres, and they are spotted by a kid who immediately screams when he sees them materialize out of nowhere. An adult–all of these people look full human, BTW, without even any of the usual ST prosthetic silliness–immediately tells the kid he’s delusional, because that’s what you do with kids who notice things, you tell them that they’re crazy, because otherwise they might start noticing OTHER THINGS and then YOU might have to actually pay attention to things, and that’s too much work for hard-working adults who need to travel long distances to engage in activities that other people decide have value and who compensate you for your activities at a rate that is a fraction of the actual value of those activities and what I don’t have issues with people treating kids as though they are inconsequential, why do you ask?

Anyway Janeway and Paris (who is still insufferable, but I’m not going to type the epithet every goddamned time, OK? It’s not like he even deserves an epithet. He’s no clear-headed Telemachus) bullshit a security officer and make like they’re just in on a transport from Kalto province and need new clothes and new timepieces. The timepiece guy shows Paris one, and Paris deduces that they are only about a day before the cataclysm. NARRATIVE URGENCY, FIGURE ONE.

Also and I’m sorry but Janeway’s hair really looks like a crazy hat.

Back in real time Chakotay is logging Janeway and Paris’s disappearance into a subspace fracture. Harry Kim makes a boring Powerpoint presentation about how subspace fractures are neat little tunnels and he’s deduced that Janeway and Paris are trapped at the other end. B’ellana says that most shockwaves dissipate into the future but these are probably moving into the past. I know that liveblogging this show is making me think about all of this differently, but I cannot get over what a load of authorial-intrusive-gobbledy-suck this is. I said last time that I’m not going to take Trek seriously as SF, but MAN. At least show people scanning something instead of being like “Here’s the cool idea that I pitched this episode as it’s very neat and tidy.” This is a Les Landau episode, and he wrote a lot of my fave DS9s, and maybe the premise wasn’t even his, but UGHHHHHH.

Chakotay grabs his ear like Michael Kitchen in “Foyle’s War” and worries that if they don’t find them they’ll get blowed up. (“Blowed up” is a very technical term and obviously Chakotay wouldn’t use it as he is not a temporal engineer like I might be.) Yada yada the Captain will probably activate a beacon and then they’ll have to widen the fracture to get them back. (Last episode was all about widening and wedging and penetrating too. I AM ON TO YOUR SEX METAPHORS YOU HEATHENS.) They don’t know how they’re going to widen the fracture, though.

The Doctor is scanning Kes’s brain, but she’s not on file, and the Doctor is annoyed by bureaucratic inefficiency, but unlike Harry and B’ellana’s explanations, it is hilarious instead of boring. He doesn’t actually have anything of substance to tell Kes about her new psychic abilities, but it’s still the best scene of the episode so far.

Back on the Planet of the Doomed, Paris and Janeway are in local garb (they look RIDICULOUS) and Janeway is setting her combadge to emit a subspace beacon, just like everyone anticipated she would. Paris suggests stopping the explosion, and Janeway loses no time in tossing the Prime Directive at Paris. UGH the Prime Directive. I never realized, until this moment, that one of the reasons I love DS9 is that they never talk about the fucking Prime Directive. Look, I understand that the Prime Directive is meant to be a post-colonial safeguard and I think that is admirable, but Star Trek never actually remembers that; it just serves as a fulcrum for philosowank discussions and I sincerely loathe it.

JP

Orange is the new fashion crime.

OK, done ranting.

Anyway, Paris thinks the Prime Directive is crap in this situation, and whatever the consequences of interfering might be they would have to be better than mass destruction. Janeway orders him not to warn anyone, which… I was going to say that I disagree with her for the first time, but assuming that it could be a wait-and-see type of order, I’m going to give her that one too.

The Noticing Kid sees Janeway and Paris talking, and Janeway is like “Ugh I hate that kid” and drags Paris off. But the kid is Dennis the Evidence-Gathering Menace, and he’s already checked out their story about the transport and knows they’re lying. Paris scares the kid off and then thinks “Hey maybe we can use this horribly unstable technology that doesn’t exist to get us back to our own time” and Janeway for some reason thinks this sounds great so they head for the power plant.

Outside said power plant, security officers are trying to break up a demonstration, and Paris and Janeway are in the wrong place at the plot-appropriate time. The officers fire shots into the air and smack around a few demonstrators, including the Captain, who is hauled away by a leader of the demonstration, with Paris following. Also following is Dennis, who is sneaky and intrepid, kind of Audrey Horne if Audrey Horne were a small blond boy. You know what I mean.

Back on Voyager Torres and Harry are activating a device that uses the same polaric energy that destroyed the planet, which seems like A GREAT IDEA. They’ve just got it running like a fucking lava lamp, a lava lamp that might just get them all blowed up. (Again, don’t try this technical language unless you are trained.) Harry says this can create an opening for Janeway and Paris to return through, but it’ll burn out after thirty seconds due to the intensity required to power it. NARRATIVE URGENCY, FIGURE TWO. Completely arbitrary and bloodless narrative urgency, but, well. Everything can’t be “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” I guess. Also they can only do it once at any given location. NARRATIVE URGENCY, FIGURE THREE.

Kes wants to go along to the planet. Chakotay tells her there’s nothing she wants to see there, but she says she has to, and that’s… the end of the scene, oddly.

Janeway and Paris are talking to the protestors. One of them suspects that they were sent to infiltrate their movement, and reveals that they are protesting against polaric energy. See, it’s a nuclear energy parable–I guess? J and P are registering high levels of polaric energy, which must mean they’ve already been inside the power plant, and the protestors pull some very Earth-looking pistols on them to let them know that they would very much like an explanation, please.

Chakotay, Torres, Harry, Tuvok, and Kes are down on the planet, and Kes is sensing things. See Kes sense! Sense, Kes, Sense! Chakotay tries to relate to this for a minute, then decides that science is a little easier to get a handle on, and asks the crew what they’ve found. The subspace fractures are dissipating, but Harry picks up a combadge signal, and they all head off to investigate it.

Janeway tells the boss protestor her name, but his other questions all assume she has information she doesn’t. He’s asking around the fact that the protestors are planning something, and does the government know about it, and they’re getting nowhere until someone brings Dennis in, squirming and yelling like every annoying kid on TV ever. He was snooping. Maybe he’s more Veronica Mars than Audrey Horne? The boy tells the protestors that J and P are liars, which of course they are, so basically I’m rooting for him now I guess.

The Voyager crew find Paris and Janeway’s combadges in the wreckage, with no bodies, which means that as of now they are going to die in the ‘splosion. Tuvok gets all emotional, though–you know Vulcans–and says that it only means that their combadges were caught in the explosion, and they should search for more tangible evidence.

The intercutting here is getting seriously annoying, y’all. I’m not sure it serves a narrative purpose, either.

Boss protestor asks about the phaser and tricorder and what they’re used for. Meanwhile Paris talks to Dennis, who says that his dad is a journalist “And so am I.” OK, so he’s Lois Lane, then. Dennis’s real name is Latika, and when Paris learns it he has Prime Directive-related pangs of conscience. The boss tells his second that they need to move up the schedule and move on the plant the next morning, and when Janeway moves to tell him to stop, she and Kes are suddenly connected?

I guess the intercutting IS finally serving a purpose. For some reason this connection prompts Janeway to tell the Prime Directive to Get tae fuck and declare herself as Captain Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager. Kes tells Tuvok she doesn’t know how she can feel the captain’s presence, which you know has got to be the most exasperating thing a Vulcan can hear. It’s good enough for Chakotay, though, who first confirms that there’s a subspace fracture there, and then orders the equipment set up.

“You wanted the truth,” says Janeway. “Here’s the truth. We’re from the future. Exactly one day in the future.” She tells them exactly what happened while the Voyager crew sets up their return beam. Dude’s not convinced yet, though; he strips them of their combadges and orders them and the boy brought along on their assault. The Voyager crew opens a way through, but no one is there to see it or pass through it.

Janeway tells Paris that their interference caused the explosion and therefore a paradox has invalidated the Prime Directive. See? COMPLETE AND UTTER WANKERY. Oh Janeway you are better than this.

The Voyager crew decides to concentrate their extraction efforts on the source of the explosion. Meanwhile Janeway is told to facilitate negotiations with the power company, or they’ll shoot the kid. Instead she declares to the guard that she’s a hostage and the men are there to break into the plant. The protestors shoot the guard, Dennis runs, and Paris takes a bullet meant for the kid. Then it’s a firefight, and the protestors charge into the plant. After checking on Paris and asking the kid to stay with him, Janeway goes after them.

It’s unclear what these idiots are trying to do inside the plant, but it looks like sabotage. Janeway sneaks in to a spot near them to observe. Meanwhile the crew beams down to the flashpoint and start setting up their equipment. Janeway manages to get the drop on the idjits, while the crew finds no subspace beacon. Tuvok’s all like “Blah blah unlikely illogical” but Kes says the captain was there. “This is where she died,” she says. The idjits say they’re not stupid enough to detonate anything inside the plant, and nothing is going to go wrong unless Janeway fires the weapon. They’re at a stalemate, because she can’t shoot and smug protestor boss won’t hand over his tools. The Voyager crew aims for shortly before the explosion, so they can extract the captain. BUT when it starts to open, Janeway and the Idjits realize that the extraction attempt itself is going to cause the explosion. Janeway says her phaser can seal the hole, and to Chief Idjit’s credit he gives it to her. She shoots, the crew on the other side increases output, Janeway keeps shooting, the generator overloads–

–a white light dissolves everything–

–and all of a sudden we are back at the beginning, with Paris, who is insufferable, trying to talk Harry Kim into a double date.

But there’s no camera tremor this time. Chakotay reports detecting the M-Class planet. Kes comes to the bridge as before, expecting to find that the whole planet is dead, but not this time. So the Voyager just… keeps on going.

Sigh.

I’m trying SO HARD to restrain the impulse to go off right now, because time paradoxes and stories that erase themselves at the end are so fucking played and boring and inconsequential. And while there are one or two clever touches, and seeing Janeway in action by herself is pretty great, there is a lot to hate in this episode. The intercutting seems to make narrative sense once the Kes/Janeway connection comes clear, except that there’s no real tension on the Voyager side–they’re just choosing sites and setting up equipment and spewing exposition. Poor Kes makes a discovery about herself that is suddenly invalidated and erased. And all this tiresome Prime Directive bullshit gets thrown around in the process, to no good effect. Bleargh.

NEXT: Maybe Neelix explains why he’s useless? STAY TUNED.