Star Trek Voyager: Before and After

"I'll bet you found out some pretty interesting things."

Kes wakes up with no memories shortly before her death, and finds herself jumping backwards in time.

I love this episode. It has some of my favourite things – time travel, lots of Paris, a possible or alternate future, and a story that's all about character and relationships.

Voyager writers have mentioned over the years that they sometimes struggled to write for Kes' limited nine-year lifespan. This episode is a perfect example of a really good use of that plot point, which uses her short lifespan to drive the story. It's not only the reason the whole thing happens in the first place – her longer-lived friends trying to prolong her short life – it's also what makes seeing her live backwards so much fun. Thanks to Kes's short lifespan, no one else needs ageing make-up (the Doctor's hair notwithstanding) and we can see her go from elderly woman to zygote across the episode. Even better, Harry ends up as Tom's son-in-law, which is just hilarious.

This is also an episode that looks forward to some of the writers' season four plans – a really nice bit of arc plotting. I won't talk about exactly how everything pans out now, as we aim to keep these reviews spoiler-free for anyone who's watching the series for the first time. So I'll just say that there's some really lovely, tight writing here. The reason that Kes ends up travelling backwards is not just that the Doctor put her in a bio-temporal chamber, but also that she had been contaminated by chroniton particles (particles of time??? Just don't ask!) during the Year of Hell. Meaning the weapons used in the attacks had something to do with time travel or time paradoxes of some kind...

There are so many lovely touches in this alternate  or "possible" future (as Tuvok points out, everything Kes does changes the future, so like the future we saw in TNG's 'All Good Things', this future most likely won't happen in exactly the way we see it here). Many of them are partly the result of the "Year of Hell" – not only is Linnis in a Starfleet uniform, but so is Neelix, though neither can ever have attended Starfleet Academy. (Come to think of it they'd have to make special allowances for Ocampans anyway, who could hardly spend a whole third of their entire lifespan in training!). The Doctor has given himself hair and gone through a cycle of names, and of course, in this future Chakotay is Captain because Janeway was killed years earlier.

As we follow Kes backwards through time, finally getting back to a time period where we see B'Elanna and Janeway again is so satisfying – even if they both get killed two minutes later! That's part of the joy of the story. Kes is eventually stabilised at roughly the point the show has got to or slightly later (her hair's grown) because it's only when she reaches a time period before the Year of Hell attacks that they're able to get her into another bio-temporal chamber with the right readings. But we also get a nice little flashback to the pilot episode, which is fun.

I enjoy this episode more and more every time I watch it, as so much detail has been put into constructing the alternate future and then revealing it backwards. Tom/Kes isn't my ship but seeing them together is still kind of fun, after their relationship was a bigger feature in earlier seasons. Kes doesn't seem too concerned that if B'Elanna survives, her daughter and granddaughter will never exist, but hey ho, that's Star Trek for you!

Bits and pieces

 - From this episode on, Kes has long hair – apparently Jennifer Lien was having a reaction to the ear prosthetics, and this neatly covered them up. The timey-wimey weirdness is a good excuse for a sudden style change!

 - Ocampan genes must be pretty strong. Not only has Linnis, who is half-Ocampan and half-human, matured far more quickly than a human would, but Andrew, who is only one-quarter Ocampan, is growing at an Ocampan rate as well.

 - Regular cast death count: We see the last few minutes of Kes' life, but she's put into the bio-temporal chamber, presumably before actually dying, so I'm not sure that counts. Janeway and B'Elanna, on the other hand, get blown up on screen in the opening salvo of the Year of Hell so that brings our Regular Cast Death Count to 11 (plus one Total Cast Massacre). Also Carey, who hasn't appeared for a while, is dead in the possible future; that seems to be a brief attempt to imply that there were more deaths during the Year of Hell than just Janeway and B'Elanna in the first five minutes.

 - The shipping news: we revisit the old possibility of Tom and Kes, but the possible future also shows Tom and B'Elanna together before her untimely death. And that shot of Chakotay and Tom kneeling over Janeway and B'Elanna's dead bodies – be still my poor little shipper heart!

 - The temporal variance of the chroniton torpedo is 1.47 micro-seconds – the number 47 used to come up a statistically unlikely number of times on TNG.

 - Kes tells Janeway all about the Krenim and the Year of Hell, which is a MAJOR violation of the Temporal Prime Directive. Kes wouldn't know that, but Janeway does, and so does Tuvok, who's equally keen on her sharing all her intel. Apparently they've decided not to care about that this week.

Quotes

Neelix: It's good to see that old lung is still working, Kessy. I love little continuity nods like these.

Neelix: Keep working on that sense of humour, Mr Vulcan. You'll get it one of these days.

A great Kes episode and so much fun to watch. Four out of four chroniton torpedoes.

Juliette Harrisson is a storyteller, freelance writer, Classicist and Trekkie. She runs the podcast Creepy Classics, re-telling and discussing ancient, medieval and early modern ghost stories. She tweets @ClassicalJG

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