For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here
Overview – A shockwave gets Voyager’s attention. As the crew searches for its source, they find themselves orbiting a planet that until the shockwave had a fully developed civilization, but is now a desolate wasteland. They discover that the inhabitants of the planet had developed polaric energy as a power source. Polaric energy was a very dangerous energy source that was banned in the Federation due to its destructive nature. As Janeway and some of her officers explore a ruined city, believed to be the center of the explosion, she and Tom Paris find themselves caught in a temporal fissure that places them back in time about one day before the accident. As Janeway and Paris search for a way to prevent the accident from happening, Chakotay and the rest of the crew search for their missing friends. They are assisted by Kes, who seems to have a telepathic ability that allows her to sense the events of the past. As both groups seek to achieve their objectives, Janeway makes an eerie discovery about the cause of the explosion.
Score: 6/10 – As far as first season episodes go, this one is not too bad. We are still trying to learn about the characters (this is only the third episode of the series), and the disaster on the planet serves as a backdrop for this purpose. We see Tom Paris continue to bond with Harry Kim, to the point where he is trying to set them up on a double date. We also see Tom’s relationship with the Captain progress. We see the beginning of the powers that develop within Kes throughout her seasons on the show. We even see the Doctor continue to come to grips with the situation he is in as the sole medical officer on the ship. Added to this is an interesting time travel story, throwing Janeway and Paris into the past and trying to prevent a disaster that they know will happen. While the story itself is fairly generic, it is still fairly good. The idea that Chakotay’s attempt at saving the captain is the ultimate cause of the explosion is an interesting twist. The only thing that is a little off-putting about this is that it is the first of multiple stories where in resolving the issue, they clean the slate of what had happened. In essence, nobody on Voyager will have any memory of this story as by Janeway stopping the rescue attempt she in essence prevents the explosion, which means that the ship doesn’t feel a shockwave and stop to investigate, which means that Janeway and Paris don’t end up back in time and need to be rescued…it gets dizzying trying to follow it. So while the ending can leave people feel a bit lost, overall the show is quite good. Also, the kid in the episode is a bit annoying at times.
Relevance – 2 points. A point scored for giving us the first glimpses of Kes’ extraordinary powers that will continue to develop throughout the series. It might be a bit for naught, however, as all we see in the end is Kes wanting to see the planet and knowing that all is well, though she may not quite understand why she feels that way (which is getting us back to the confusing time-travel logic, so I’ll leave it there). Another point is scored for the first mention of the Delaney sisters. Tom and Harry talk about them quite a lot throughout the series. They almost gain Captain Boday status (he was a character in DS9 that was often mentioned but never seen), but we do eventually see them in season 5.
Continuity – 3 points. Story continuity is a little tough to score. In any time travel episode where we see actions of the future impacting the past (just like we see in the previous Voyager episode “Parallax”), it makes it a little difficult to figure out what is going on and why they don’t remember the events of the episode because they didn’t actually happen, even though they did…OK, this time stuff is making it hard for me to focus. Suffice it to say, even though the time travel stuff makes it hard to follow, the story seems to be intact here, so I will give it a point. Character development is good as well. Neelix tries to help Kes figure out what is affecting her, even though he seems to not believe her. Tom lying to the Delaney sisters about Harry to get a date with them really fits the character. The one thing that raises some questions is Janeway leading the away team. In order to build that character of the captain, it is necessary to have her do this. Having said that, it was established in TNG that the captain usually doesn’t lead away teams anymore, so one could have expected Chakotay to object and insist he lead the team. I do think that ultimately this is very much in line with Janeway’s character. First, there does not seem to be a major threat as there is no longer any life on the planet. Second, Janeway is a scientist, and this sort of away mission is right up her alley. Finally, as we saw in “Caretaker”, Janeway seems to be the type of character that will treat the idea that the first officer should lead most away teams as a suggestion and would rather be on the front line. Finally, universe continuity is intact here, so full marks in this category.
Character Development – 3 points. Lots of character development, even though some of it may not stick due to the nature of time tra…uh, let’s just stop that there. Kes makes some very significant progression with the revelation and foreshadowing that she will develop these psychic powers. This is huge for her character, and fans of hers should see this episode for that reason. Janeway and Paris continue to build upon the groundwork of their professional relationship, and Tom shows some great signs of nobility as he throws himself in the trajectory of a bullet to save a kid. The Doctor also has some great, albeit brief scenes that add some great color to his character. His line about being on the ship of the damned is one of his funniest Season 1 lines. Full points here.
Social Commentary – 1 point. Here is where it becomes as muddied as the trying to figure out the time travel quandary (did they actually go down to the planet?). There is definitely an environmental aspect to the story, which still brings debate as to which forms of energy are harmful to our society. There is also the conundrum of what you would do if you knew a disaster was about to happen. While all these things are interesting to ponder, it is hard to say one way or another what this episode says about us, so I can only justify a single point here.
Cool Stuff – 1 point. The idea that their rescue attempt caused the explosion that drew them to the planet in the first place. Wow, I think I might actually be understanding this time travel paradox here. See, if they hadn’t had been in the Delta quadrant then they wouldn’t have initiated the explosion which Janeway undid by not allowing the rescue attempt to happen, so there was no explosion, and…Ok, I’m stuck again. Well, still a cool, albeit confusing, story ending. Not enough to be cool? OK, the timepiece was original.
Rank – Captain (16 points). Don’t get caught up in the time travel issues that have been plaguing this review, and you might actually find this episode very enjoyable. It sets up Kes’ special abilities and has some clever plot twists.
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