Investigating a mysterious explosion, Janeway and Paris are accidentally sent back in time to the day before, where they decide the Temporal Prime Directive can take a long walk off a short cliff if it means they get vaporised along with everyone else on the planet.
The central dilemma Janeway and Paris face here is whether to try to help the inhabitants of Doomed Planet and prevent the explosion, or obey the Temporal Prime Directive and just try to get themselves the heck out of dodge before they get vaporised. Paris, of course, argues for the humane approach and wants to at least warn the planet’s inhabitants that they’re all about to die, while Janeway is initially all about obeying the rules. She changes her mind halfway through, though, when she realises that the disaster may have been set off by their presence in the first place. At least, that’s her excuse. I think she just wanted to get herself (and Paris) out of there, which probably makes her a bad captain, but a more relatable human being.
Star Trek alien races are famous for being distinguishable largely by their bumpy foreheads, but this is not the only quality they tend to share. You’ll always know you’re on a Star Trek-style alien planet because Earth is apparently the only planet in the universe with a fashion industry. Star Trek aliens always wear simple cuts, usually in relatively plain colours, and everyone on the planet wears the same style in the same material. No other planets in the universe have invented denim.
The planet here is no exception, as aside from a few uniforms, everyone in the area wears an outfit that makes them look like a pack of fruit pastilles, with corsets on the outside, for men as well as women. This becomes hard to ignore when the script draws attention to it early on. At least the outfit suits both Janeway and Paris fairly well, and Janeway even takes her hair down specially for the occasion.
This episode sees the first manifestation of Kes’ ‘unusual mental abilities’, as she senses the disaster on the planet and later senses Janeway and Paris’s presence from a day into the future. I watched this episode with my brother last week, and he couldn’t resist the opportunity to intone, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced,” as Kes wandered, dazed, onto the bridge. It's a little derivative, but it does indicate some interesting character potential for Kes. And this is Star Trek, so of course the explanation is not mystical but biological, stemming from Kes’ ‘lovely brain’ (and boy, does the Doctor sound creepy when he says that, as if he wants to eat it).
I’ve always really liked this episode. It combines some of my favourite themes – time travel, environmentalism and episodes with Tom Paris in them. The kid who serves as combined comic relief and an emotional connection to the people on the planet is impressively not-too-annoying and the central science-fiction concept is simple but effective. Essentially, this episode doesn’t do anything Star Trek hasn’t done many times before, but it gets on with the job in an entertaining and generally likeable fashion, which is really all I ask of my Trek episodes.
Bits n pieces
- This episode opens with Paris and Kim’s first conversation (of many) about the elusive Delaney sisters. The show is working hard to establish Paris as playboy, though unfortunately his refusal to accept that Kim has a girlfriend he’s still hoping to get back to makes him look a bit heartless.
- This is also the first episode of Voyager that never happened. There will be quite a few of these; Voyager approached the idea of the re-set button a bit literally sometimes.
- Janeway calls Paris ‘Tom’ while on active duty, on an away mission. Further fuel for our theory that all she really wants is to get into his pants.
- In one timeline, Janeway and Paris die on the planet - so that's regular cast deaths #1&2 (another classic Star Trek habit - killing people off and bringing them back). Harry Kim, so far, remains resolutely alive throughout.
Paris: “We’re the only humans out here, Harry. People are gonna start pairing off and if we don’t get to the Delaney sisters in stellar cartography soon, somebody else will.”
Doctor: “Missing? The Captain is missing. It seems I’ve found myself on the voyage of the damned.”
Doctor: “Drink plenty of fluids.”
Doctor: “Everybody should drink plenty of fluids.”
Latika: “Where’s the child?”
Paris: “We ate him, because we are demons and we do eat children and I haven’t had my supper yet!”
Classic Star Trek fun. Three out of four fruit pastille corsets.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.
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