Chakotay and Kim — 15 years since we last saw them — unearth the remains of a crashed Voyager near the edge of the Alpha Quadrant on a frozen planet. Turns out the two were in the Delta Flyer working in tandem with Voyager to use adapted quantum slipstream technology (from “Hope and Fear”) in hopes of getting home. The Flyer made it, but Voyager was lost, and the two have been looking for the ship ever since (long after Starfleet gave up). Now, Chakotay and Kim are renegades who stole the Flyer and some Borg technology that they hope can be used to contact Seven prior to the accident, sending her information that will change history. Despite tangling with Starfleet (led by Captain Geordi La Forge on a Galaxy-class ship), Chakotay and Kim are successful. Voyager avoids the original accident, shaves about 10,000 light years off its journey and present-day Kim gets a message from future Kim explaining (generally) what happened.
Why it’s important
Well, like many of Voyager’s more daring episodes — don’t even get me started on “Year from Hell” — much of what happens here is reset by timeline shenanigans. But Voyager gonna be Voyager, I suppose. That said, Voyager DOES get significantly closer to home in this episode, so it’s Tapestry-worthy. Although one wonders why Janeway has the quantum slipstream drive dismantled after the episode. Why not keep fine-tuning?
What doesn’t hold up
Putting aside the timeline issues — how would future Kim’s message have still existed in the past if future Kim never really existed? — and the annoying reset noted above, there’s a LOT to like in this episode. It’s easily Garrett Wang’s best showing as Kim (proving the failings of that character were mostly on the writers) and future Chakotay works in a quiet, understated way. Plus, the cross-cutting between present-day Voyager’s attempt to use the slipstream drive and future Chakotay and Kim’s attempts to complete their mission works very well. LeVar Burton, who directed the episode, should be lauded — as this is one of Voyager’s best-paced and best-made episodes.
Good stuff aside, it’s pretty convenient that Voyager crashed on a frozen waste of a planet, preserving Seven and her Borg stuff.
I guess the only other issue is the ease at which Chakotay and Kim must have been able to steal the Flyer and the Borg technology and escape for long enough to find Voyager. It’s not totally implausible, but it makes Starfleet security look pretty sloppy. It’s inferred that neither Chakotay or Kim is in Starfleet when they start their plot. All that said, it’s a conceit I’ll mostly grant because the episode works so well.
This is probably Voyager’s best episode, even with its flaws. I’m not exactly sure why what we see here is less annoying to me than “Year of Hell”, as both provide what-if scenarios that are promptly erased — allowing the creators to go back to “TNG in the Delta Quadrant” status quo. Maybe “Timeless” isn’t as objectionable as it doesn’t erase as much time, or maybe it’s because “Timeless” doesn’t show a what-if scenario that very well could have been Voyager’s entire run as a series. In other words, “Timeless” is less of a tease.
Coming next week …
More Borg and more Seven, as Voyager goes full-comic book on our asses.