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.
Voyager encounters what appears to be Starfleet headquarters in the middle of the Delta Quadrant. Chakotay and Tuvok check it out, and determine that it’s actually a simulation built by Species 8472 (back from “Scorpion”) as a way to learn about the Federation, complete with members of the species posing as Starfleet officers (hmmm) and a recreation of Boothby (Ray Walston) whom we met back in TNG’s “The First Duty”. 8472 is using the recreation to prep for war against the Federation after Janeway allied Voyager with the Borg (way to go, Kathy). Eventually, Janeway and Co. talk down the now reasonable 8472s –Voyager agrees to let 8472 look at the weapons developed in “Scorpion” — and the sides cease hostilities.
Why it’s important
Reaching a tentative peace with Species 8472 is pretty significant, considering how dangerous they seemed back in “Scorpion”. What looked to be a new enemy with the intent of conquering the galaxy fades away here, and that (as we’ll discuss) is a problem.
What doesn’t hold up
Species 8472, when we first meet them, were freaking terrifying. Their motto — “the weak shall perish” — was right up there with anything the Borg or the Jem’Hadar threw at our heroes. And even being touched by an 8472 (initially) caused humans (and presumably all humanoids) to be eaten alive and transformed.
But this episode seriously undercuts all of that and makes 8472 appear pretty freaking reasonable — too reasonable, really. I guess the idea is that their experiment playing humans (and other Federation races) and their interaction in this episode with Voyager gave them the insight that the Federation wasn’t actually a big threat to them. But it all comes together way too easily, considering the hand the creators dealt themselves in “Scorpion”. Having representatives of 8472 sitting (as humans) at Voyager’s conference table and working out a peaceful deal was just … weak.
Beyond that, how did the 8472s not spot Chakotay as an outsider more easily? I hate to single out such a small thing, but he was at “Starfleet headquarters” with his Maquis rank insignia (which looks a lot different than what normal Starfleet officers wear on their collars). And really, the whole idea that the 8472s needed to set up a fake Starfleet HQ to better understand the Federation is pretty weird. If you’ll recall, they could read Kes’ thoughts back in “Scorpion”. What info did they think they’d get that would be worth such an elaborate setup in this episode? I’m not saying that the experiment couldn’t have yielded some interesting info — but would it have been enough to justify the effort? I doubt it. And keep in mind that Boothby mentions several other facilities conducting similar activities.
Oh, and Chakotay makes reference to the last time he was at Starfleet HQ, in March 2368, when he resigned to join the Maquis. As we’ve discussed before, this is part of Voyager’s attempt to retcon the Maquis’s existence well before we first learned about them in “The Maquis”. Chakotay could have resigned in protest of the new treaty with the Cardassians in March 2368. But if he resigned and joined the Maquis, he probably should have been written as a founding member.
Some readers might wonder why we didn’t review “Hope and Fear”, the final episode of Voyager’s fourth season. It’s pretty rare when the events of a season finale don’t make it onto the Tapestry, but that episode really didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know and didn’t advance Trek’s bigger storylines. The most interesting idea in that episode is that Janeway’s controversial moves in “Scorpion” to help the Borg pissed off some Delta Quadrant residents who then plotted revenge. Whoops. But, hey, that’s our Kathy!
That said, we almost reviewed the episode because it shaved a few months off of Voyager’s trip home (thanks to the quantum slipstream drive). But a few months just didn’t seem significant enough.
Finally, we learn something interesting in this episode: Voyager’s crew is down to 127. This means about 25 have been lost since the crews integrated in “Caretaker”. Frankly, that’s a lot — about 17 percent of the crew — but we really don’t see any staffing issues, other than Paris’ presence starting in season four as a medic in sickbay. That so many people were lost (and that more will be lost) is extremely notable given Janeway’s actions going forward. But it also sort of makes sense, given everything we’ve seen previously.
Of course, Voyager’s crew magically goes back to just under 150 in a a later episode. Maybe some of the 8472s posing as humans stuck around as crew replacements?
Coming later this week …
Voyager crashes and only Kim and Chakotay survive.
Voyager finds an ancient relay network that allows Seven to spot a Starfleet ship thousands of light years away. When a traditional message can’t get through to the ship, Janeway sends the Doctor to make contact. But the ship (the experimental U.S.S. Prometheus) has been taken over by Romulans, and the Doctor must work with the vessel’s holographic doctor (Andy Dick) to save the vessel. Amid some fairly witty banter, the two EMHs are successful, the prototype ship is returned to Starfleet and the Doctor returns to Voyager with news that he’s informed the Federation of Voyager’s whereabouts.
Why it’s important
Voyager making brief contact with the Federation is hugely important, even if the ability is relatively short-lived. The cartoonish bad guys who control the relay network (the Hirogen) destroy it in the subsequent episode and Voyager doesn’t again have regular contact with Starfleet for a while.
As bad guys go, the Hirogen are pretty stupid, though the creators seemed to put a lot of time into their development and they show up a lot in season four. Still, we only mention their introduction here as a side note. The Hirogen aren’t that significant in the larger scope of Voyager or Star Trek as a whole.
What doesn’t hold up
While this is a fun episode, there is just so much that makes me scratch my head.
For one thing, how did the Romulans get aboard the Prometheus in the first place? I don’t expect a ton of backstory on that — only so much plot and dialogue can fit in a 45-minute show — but presumably, they got there on a ship, and it’s odd that we don’t see that ship escorting the Prometheus back to Romulus.
This episode also is probably Trek’s worst example of using extras who clearly can’t have lines of dialogue. The most glaring moment is in sickbay when Neelix speaks for crew members suffering from indigestion (thanks to Neelix’s chili). Paris and Neelix talk as if the crew members have no ability to talk! The Romulan commander and helm officer on the Prometheus also seem to be the only two Romulans with verbal abilities. Oh, and did anyone else notice that the Doctor and EMH-2 talk openly about their plot while an injured Romulan is nearby and clearly conscious?
Last point. EMH-2 mentions the Federation’s war with the Dominion, which was going on at this time — with Voyager unaware — on DS9. But it’s weird that the Voyager crew seems to have no knowledge of the Dominion (the Doctor has none and Chakotay and Torres are seemingly unaware in the next episode), even though hostilities with the Dominion started a half-season before Voyager’s trip to the Delta Quadrant. But, bigger picture, shouldn’t the events here have pretty much killed any chances of a Federation/Romulan alliance against the Dominion? At least one Romulan ship appears to have been destroyed. Granted, a few months pass before Sisko’s skulduggery in “In the Pale Moonlight”. But still. I know this is supposed to be a light-hearted episode, but there was a major war going on in the Alpha Quadrant at the time — and the Federation and Romulans doing battle in previous Trek was always viewed as something that could lead to war.
This episode is classic Voyager, and that’s not entirely a compliment.
It’s well-acted and amusing (Picardo really shines) and the side stories back on Voyager as the crew waits for word are actually pretty amusing. But there are just so many goofy logic and continuity issues. Hell, you could argue that Janeway was reckless sending the Doctor to the Alpha Quadrant when he had a good chance of being lost and considering that Paris is the ship’s next most qualified medic. At this point in the series, there’s no word of a backup Doctor.
Aside from that, the EMHs might be the luckiest photonic beings in the universe, given how they activate the “multi-vector” attack mode in a way that defeats the Romulans. Everything else on the ship requires a lot of specific knowledge that the EMHs, not surprisingly, don’t have. But EMH-2 accidentally hits a button and everything is fixed? Weak.
All that said, it was a nice development — with follow up in the next episode — that allows Voyager to communicate with Starfleet and let their families know they’re still alive. There are some things that don’t get mentioned — like the 10-20 Voyager crewmen who died in the previous three years and whether Janeway notified Starfleet about them. It’s also odd that there’s no discussion (yet) of how Starfleet would likely view the Maquis on board as criminals. Again, these aren’t items that wreck this episode or the next one. But not addressing them was a missed opportunity, IMO.
Odo, lured to a planet after a message from a presumed dead Cardassian contact, finds Weyoun, who sent the fake message and wants to defect. He’s a new version of the Vorta clone and he apparently doesn’t buy what the Dominion’s doing and wants to serve Odo, who skeptically sees a kindred spirit. Odo proceeds to take Weyoun back to the station before they’re found by Damar and a newer Weyoun, who has no problem with the Dominion’s plans for conquest. The two send the Jem’Hadar after the runabout — knowing that the Founders would object to it being destroyed with Odo on it. The female Changeling (Salome Jens) appears, and she doesn’t look well (something Damar notices). With the Jem’Hadar closing in, Weyoun tells Odo that he wants to serve Odo in imagined efforts to reframe the Dominion’s thinking. He also tells a shocked Odo that a disease has infected the Great Link, and that all the Founders are dying. After a nifty chase through an asteroid field, the Jem’Hadar close in on the runabout, and Weyoun activates a suicide implant to save Odo, but asks Odo for his blessing as he dies. Odo, who’s never embraced the Founders’ preferred role as gods, accommodates Weyoun and returns home — and acknowledges that his people will now be more dangerous than ever.
Why it’s important
The disease infecting the Great Link has huge implications the rest of the way, as it makes the Founders more desperate and also provides the Federation with leverage to end the war as the series ends. Of course, we learn later that our favorite rogue Starfleet agency is behind the disease, and that Odo was actually the instrument they used to infect the Link when the Founders summoned Odo for judgment back in “Broken Link” (sad trombone).
There’s a subtler piece here, too. The idea from good Weyoun that Odo could teach his people not to be all about conquest and control really shows up here in a huge way — and it plays big into Odo’s decisions at the end of the series.
Oh, and it was a nice bit of continuity that the Cardassian contact Odo leaves to see was likely the guy we saw in the shadows way back in “Improbable Cause”, as the cave for both meetings appears to be the same.
What doesn’t hold up
Well, Odo’s runabout sure takes a pounding from the Jem’Hadar. Seems like the ship should have been blown to pieces with all the shots it took. But this is something Star Trek has always been bad at — the Bad Guys Get Destroyed With One Shot But Good Guys Can Take At Least Six Syndrome.
I’ll talk more about the B-plot in a moment, but I don’t really buy Sisko’s obstinacy about forcing O’Brien to make repairs when he doesn’t have the parts. Telling an engineer to get something done in less time than quoted is sort of a Star Trek staple. But it’s not as if O’Brien can wish a gravity net to fall out of the sky.
The B-plot is rather pleasant, considering it could have been annoying Ferengi drivel or just some by-the-numbers attempt at levity. Clearly, the B-plot was a way to get many of the regular cast and crew involved in the episode (only Cirroc Lofton gets no love, as he continues down the path of the younger sister on “Family Matters”). Colm Meaney and Aron Eisenberg really do a nice job, as does Alexander Siddig.
Even those Trek fans who don’t like DS9 — and I know there are valid reasons for not liking it — should acknowledge that this was the best overall cast, particularly late in the run. Even regular guest stars like J.G. Hertzler become well-realized characters. In an episode that’s at least half devoted to something fairly inconsequential (like this one) a strong cast goes a long way.
Coming next week …
More mind-f***ing for Bashir by our buddies at Section 31.
Part one: Sisko’s back on Earth at his father’s restaurant, still searching for answers after Jadzia’s death and the departure of the Prophets. Meanwhile, the war continues and Kira grants permission for the Romulans to set up a hospital facility on one of Bajor’s moons — only to find the Romulans are putting weapons there. Worf is still hurting from the loss of Jadzia, mostly because she didn’t get a warrior’s death. After O’Brien (in a great scene) gets to the bottom of Worf’s problems, Martok steps in, asking Worf to be his first officer on a dangerous mission to honor Jadzia. Back on Earth, Sisko finally has a vision and sees a woman’s face in the sand. It turns out the face belongs to the first wife of his father Joe (Brock Peters) and the woman is actually Sisko’s mother, whom Sisko had no knowledge of and who left Joe and died while Sisko was a small child. Sisko decides to go look for the woman and the Orb of the Emissary, mentioned in the vision, on the planet Tyree, and preps to leave with Jake and Joe. As the episode ends, a young woman arrives at the restaurant, identifying herself as Ezri Dax (Nicole de Boer).
Part two: We learn that Ezri was unprepared to take on the symbiont, so she’s having a tough time adapting to being joined. But she leaves with the Siskos for Tyree. Kira, meanwhile, sets up a blockade to prevent the final pieces of the Romulans’ weapons from reaching their base, with Admiral Ross stuck between Kira and Romulan Senator Creetak (Megan Cole). Worf and Martok head out for their mission to destroy a Dominion shipyard with O’Brien, Bashir and Quark along. The three plots coalesce as Sisko finds the Orb of the Emissary but becomes Benny Russell (“Far Beyond the Stars”) in a mental hospital being told his stories of DS9 aren’t real. Just as Sisko/Russell is about to accept this — and as all looks lost for both Kira’s blockade and Worf/Martok’s mission — Sisko/Russell does a 180 and opens the Orb box instead of smashing it. The wormhole reappears, and an emboldened Kira says she won’t back down, despite the presence of several Romulan warbirds — prompting Ross to step in and force the Romulans out. Martok’s ship successfully destroys the Dominion shipyard and Sisko speaks with the woman who was his mother, Sarah (Deborah Lacey). She is a Prophet who briefly merged with a human woman to … orchestrate Sisko’s birth. Sisko heads back to DS9 a hero, and the staff — included a befuddled Worf — meets the new Dax.
Why it’s important
Well, we learn that Sisko is part Bajoran god, so that’s something. As noted in previous reviews, the DS9 creators really decided to go for broke in the final season-plus. Here’s another example.
The continuation of the Federation/Romulan alliance also is important, though it’s annoying that we see no fallout after this episode — and we later see Creetak as rather buddy-buddy with the DS9 crew, including Kira (hmmm). Meanwhile, we don’t really see how the destruction of the shipyard plays in, but I suppose it can be inferred that it further weakened the Dominion.
What doesn’t hold up
In one way, these two episodes are tough to critique based on our usual criteria. We learn that Sisko is — and always has been — at least partly a descendant of the Prophets, meaning that he was always meant to come to DS9, discover the wormhole, etc. But way back in “Emissary”, the Prophets were all confused about what a linear being even was and certainly didn’t recognize Sisko.
Assuming the Prophets weren’t lying — which is a fairly safe assumption — the guess is that after they met Sisko, they decided to go back in time and make him part Prophet. This squares with what we first learned (sort of) because the Prophets have no concept of time and could move back and forth to do whatever they wanted. But, then, why the interrogation during “Emissary”? The Prophets should have been all like, “Glad you finally got here. This is the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, as you call it. You may use it. We are of Bajor.”
Granted, that wouldn’t do much for exposition in the pilot. But it would have tracked better with aliens who have no concept of a linear existence.
Oh, and does anybody else think it’s weird that Sisko could take a leave of absence and just borrow a runabout? Wouldn’t this be like a captain in the U.S. navy borrowing a fighter jet to go home for vacation? Granted, we’ve seen DS9 officers take runabouts on vacation before, but not for three months. Also, where is Tyree? Is it in the Bajoran system? Is it just some random world Sisko knew about and recognized in his vision? Like the runabout question, it’s not a huge deal. But both are sort of odd.
Final question, with all of our heroes off the station in the second episode, who was in command of DS9? Ross is there, of course, but he was clearly dealing with Kira and Creetak. The only quasi-main character with any sort of rank whom we don’t see in part two is Nog … so I guess he was treating the Ops staff to some root beers?
Final, final question: Jake says, at the end of part one, that he’s packed his toothbrush. Unless this has become an old saying or something — which is possible — are we to believe that dental care hasn’t advanced in 350 years? We’ll note a lot of items like this in DS9’s final season …
Ambiguity surrounding the Prophets aside, I love these two episodes, particularly part two. The cross-cutting between the three plots really works, and that things get better for Worf and Kira as Sisko decides to open the Orb box was well done — and the visuals with Martok’s ship are some of my favorite in the series. And though I’ve never been a huge fan of “Far Beyond the Stars” — Avery Brooks’ performance was over the top and most of the other characters played by the regular cast were really annoying — I’ll give the creators credit for calling back to that episode here.
There’s also, of course, the introduction of a major character in Ezri Dax. While the creators rammed a lot of “Ezri Fun!” down our throats in the seventh season — “Prodigal Daughter” and “Field of Fire” almost seem like they were required by de Boer’s agent for her to join the cast — she mostly works in the season’s first two episodes. The scene in the runabout in part two just after she’s been space sick was a bit much, but it actually gave Cirroc Lofton something to do, which doesn’t happen much in the seventh season. De Boer seems to have studied Terry Farrell’s performance, which was a nice touch. But season seven’s slight drop in quality can be traced in part to too much Ezri.
Finally, the scene in which O’Brien brings a bottle of blood wine to Worf’s quarters to find out what’s bothering our favorite Klingon really shows how good the DS9 actors were in their roles. For Michael Dorn and Colm Meaney — who had been playing these characters for more than a decade — the ease of the conversation was just so great. “You call that a visit?!” “I enjoyed it.” Perfect.
Oh, and gotta love any mention of our old buddy Reg Barclay from TNG. “Who could forget him?” Worf says, hilariously.
Coming later this week …
Nog does his best Corporal Klinger impersonation. Oh, and the Founders are dying, or something.
What if a site focused on the really important Star Trek episodes, explained how they were important and how they tied together — while tossing in a healthy dose of snark?