Thursday, August 30, 2018

Episode Review - Future's End: Part 1 (Voyager, Season 3)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – It’s a regular day on Voyager when a temporal displacement arrives, bringing a ship from the 29th Century along. Its captain, a man by the name of Braxton, is intent on destroying Voyager in order to prevent a catastrophic event that destroys Earth’s solar system in the 29th Century. The battle that occurs propels both vessels back in time to 20th century Earth. The timeship ends up in the 1960s where it is discovered and commandeered by Henry Starling, who uses the technology he discovers to launch a corporate empire. Voyager arrives in the year 1996, and they begin to search for a way back to their time. Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, and Paris beam down to Los Angeles and begin their search. Paris and Tuvok meet Rain Robinson, a young astronomer who detected Voyager’s presence and alerted Starling, who is now trying to kill her. Janeway and Chakotay find Captain Braxton, who informs them that Starling is the one who will set off the devastating explosion in his century when he attempts to use the timeship to return to the 29th Century. He has spent the last 30 years in L.A. living the life of a homeless man prophesising the end of the world. When Janeway and Chakotay try to infiltrate Starling’s building, he captures them. This forces Harry Kim to bring Voyager into orbit to rescue them, leading to a showdown between Voyager and Starling that results in an unexpected loss to Voyager.

Score: 8/10 – I always enjoyed time travel stories that bring the crew of Star Trek to Earth, especially in our present day. “Future’s End” does a great job in this regard. It reminds me of “Star Trek IV: The Journey Home” by taking our crew and putting them in a “fish out of water” scenario. It is quite entertaining seeing Paris try to act like he knows everything about the 20th Century (although he is off by about two or three decades), and Tuvok’s attempts to interact in this time frame provide some equally enjoyable moments. Captain Braxton is a bit of an odd character as he seems to be a bit too undisciplined to be a temporal agent, as seen by both his relentless efforts to destroy Voyager and his crazy-homeless man persona he has in 1996. The other two main guest stars, however, are very enjoyable. Renowned actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. is ironically cast as the greedy corporate tycoon intent on making as much money as possible. Comedian Sarah Silverman plays the loveable Rain Robinson, who will serve as a love interest for Tom Paris. Both of these actors are quite famous for work outside of Star Trek, and both add great performances to this episode. There are many subtle gags throughout the episode that makes it fun to watch, and Starling is a very tough villain for the Voyager crew to be challenged by. For a 20th Century former-hippie, he gets the upper hand on the Voyager crew due to his intelligence, resourcefulness, and access to advanced technology. There is also some fun character pairings here. Kim and Torres on the ship debating whether or not they should disobey Janeway’s command to not do anything that would risk detection is pretty straightforward. Chakotay and Janeway have a few good moments on Earth, but it is Tom and Tuvok that seem to steal the show a bit with their interactions. It is almost in a charming, odd-couple way. The end of this episode is almost perfect as it leaves the audience wondering how Janeway and her crew are going to get out of the tough situation they are in, especially with the realization that Starling has kidnapped the Doctor. This is definitely a highlight of the third season.

Relevance – 2 points. Captain Braxton is introduced in this episode, and the character will return in a fifth season episode (although a different actor will be cast). Coinciding with Braxton is the existence of a future division of Starfleet that monitors and protects the timeline, something that is brought up again in the return of Braxton in a couple seasons. It is suggested that this department may have evolved from the department of temporal investigations, which is introduced to us in DS9’s classic “Trials and Tribble-ations”. We also are given the first appearance of Ensign Kaplan. She will make a few more appearances in this season before her character meets an untimely end in “Unity”.

Continuity – 3 points. Universe continuity is good here, although there is the fact that this episode occurs mostly in the year 1996. This is supposedly during the Eugenics war, which was established in the Original Series episode “Space Seed”. While not necessarily canon, a Trek novel series on the Eugenics Wars provides an explanation that the war was largely a covert war and happened unbeknown to the general public. That works for me. Story continuity is always tricky in a time travel episode as the writers have to be careful not to back themselves into a corner. This episode seems to avoid that, so I can give it a point here. Character continuity is a fun one to examine in this episode, as we get to see the different characters interact with 1996. Paris prides himself on being a history buff yet uses phrases and concepts that are close but not quite matching up for his time frame. What’s even better is how oblivious he is to it. Tuvok channels a bit of Spock from Star Trek IV as he makes some clever observations of our time. My favorite is noting that they could have stayed in their uniforms and blended in with the colorful apparel of 1996 Los Angeles. Neelix and Kes become addicted to TV, and Harry gets his first assignment in command of the ship. Everyone acts in a way that makes sense.

Character Development – 2 points. Harry gets his first taste at command and manages to use impeccable timing to save his captain and first officer. Tuvok and Paris go on a rescue mission to save Rain Robinson from a 20th Century goon with a 29th Century phaser, posing as secret agents. Janeway and Chakotay weigh the risks involved with their important mission. While many of the main cast are given some great moments and adventures, very little is done to significantly develop any of them in a meaningful way. Such is the fate during some of these big event two-part episodes.

Social Commentary – 1 point. Here is another category where we have a sacrifice made for an exciting story. Other than the “don’t mess up time” or “greed is bad” there is not a lot to say. Yes, Los Angeles circa 1996 is a weird looking place, but again, nothing too profound to comment on in this episode.

Cool Stuff – 3 points. Seeing our characters from the future interact in our world today is always cool. We often wonder how our crews would fare if they were placed in our time. This is probably why such episodes are so popular, and it is enough for the first cool point. A cute example of this is a funny yet subtle gag when the away team is first on the planet. While the four of them are walking along a street, Janeway’s communicator pin beeps. Every person around them immediately checks their phone. Good stuff. Second, when Tom and Tuvok are in Robinson’s office you may notice a familiar action figure on her desk. She has a Talosian from the Original Series pilot “The Cage”. It is almost surreal to see. Finally, there is the footage of Voyager flying through the night sky that just seems so real.

Rank – Captain (19 points). With a little more significant character development and a more thoughtful message/theme to explore, this could have ranked higher. Having said that, “Future’s End” is a delightful episode that is fun, entertaining, and leaves us excited for next week’s conclusion. I think it is one of the highlights of the season and is a must see for anyone going through the series.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Voyager, click on the link here.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

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