Star Trek Voyager: Future's End, Part One

"Far out!"

A timeship from the 29th century crashes in North America in the 20th, followed a few decades later by Voyager - home but not quite.

The inciting incident for this story basically puts Janeway and the whole crew of Voyager in the position of Edith Keeler from Possibly the Best Episode of Star Trek Ever, 'The City on the Edge of Forever' (in which Kirk was sensible enough not to try to tell Edith she had to die before letting her step in front of a car). Braxton is one step more pro-active than Kirk, though, because his mission is apparently to destroy Voyager because they are the root cause of an explosion in the future. Janeway, of course, is not going to just take that and somehow, through a series of technobabble, everyone ends up in 1996 - by an astonishing coincidence, the year in which the episode was made. Even more amazingly, 29th century technology has started showing up in Los Angeles, where the show was filmed (sarcasm off).

Of course, as Braxton realises later and explains to Janeway and Chakotay, it was his coming back in time to destroy Voyager that kick-started the whole cycle of events in the first place, which just goes to show that messing about with time travel and causality is really never a good idea.

Besides Janeway and Chakotay, the other half of the away team exploring the crazy alien world of LA in 1996 is Tom and Tuvok. Paris is there because he knows the most about the period, which makes sense. Why they insisted on sending a Vulcan who has to wear a bandana-thing the whole time instead of another human is more of a mystery, but it gives us Tuvok in a skater outfit and the glorious double act of mutual snark that is Tom and Tuvok working together, so whatever, we'll just go with it. Their argument about whether taking a car for an extended test drive constitutes 'stealing' or 'borrowing' is hilarious.

The B plot with Paris flirting with a SETI researcher is cute too. Sarah Silverman isn't really known over here, so whenever I see (or hear) her in anything, I always think fondly, 'Hey, it's Rain Robinson!" The whole thing is pretty cheesy and Tom's shirt is truly hideous, but I like this story thread and I like the character.

This episode is full of great little moments and touches, like Janeway not being able to type, Kes and Neelix getting hooked on soap operas, Paris saying 'groovy' because he doesn't know which bits of slang belong to which bits of the 20th century and forgetting when the cold war finished... There's also a plot about computer mogul Henry Starling stealing and using 29th century technology to kick-start the computer revolution of the late 20th century and wanting to keep it all for himself, which is fine. It'll be resolved in Part Two. But mostly, this episode is about having fun shooting Star Trek characters in then-contemporary Los Angeles, and it's a pleasure to watch.

Bits and pieces

 - It's sometimes questioned why Voyager would keep the holodeck running when they're always so short of fuel and have to ration everything, but Janeway's reference to a tennis tournament at the beginning of the episode neatly demonstrates why. Voyager has no gym or other open space besides the holodeck and the mess, so in order to keep fit and healthy for active duty, they do actually need to keep the holodeck running so they can use it for exercise. That doesn't entirely excuse Paris's French bar, but still. The pool table has to be a bit of a workout...

 - Paris's interest in 'antique vehicles' has now become a general interest in 20th century history and a particular fondness for old B movies. That seems logical enough - the 20th century is when the cars and so on are from, and the B movies are full of retro-futuristic technology. This interest of his is one of my favourite recurring character beats.

 - Janeway's expression when Braxton asks her to tell the police he came from the future is a thing of beauty.

 - Janeway flirting watch: Janeway and Chakotay wandering down the boulevard (boardwalk? I dunno, the prom!) chatting about ancestors and Janeway's legs in their fancy 1990s suits looks practically like a date.

 - Oh, the 1990s: Janeway has to hide the fact she's talking on her communicator because hardly anyone has a mobile phone in 1996.


Chakotay (in horrified tone): The late twentieth century...

Tuvok (looking at a variety of exciting outfits): We could have worn our Starfleet uniforms. I doubt if anyone would have noticed.

Braxton: The end is coming! The future's end!

Janeway: Time travel. Ever since my first day in the job as a Starfleet Captain I swore I'd never let myself get caught in one of these god-forsaken paradoxes. The future is the past, the past is the future - it all gives me a headache!

Good fun. Four out of four misused 20th century slang terms.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.


Cesare said...

I remember seeing this episode when it was broadcast and wondering - weren't the Eugenic Wars with Khan Noonien Singh supposed to be going on at about this time, or have just ended? They do not seem to have had any impact on the life in LA, maybe they were fought elsewhere?

Juliette said...

Yes, you're right, the Eugenics Wars should just be finishing (1992-6) - I think they decided to just quietly pretend that hadn't happened!