Friday, July 26, 2013

Voyager, Season 1: Time and Again

Voyager, Season 1
"Time and Again"
Airdate: January 30, 1995
3 of 168 produced
3 of 168 aired


Voyager investigates a destroyed world, when Janeway and Paris are whisked back in time - to one day before the disaster that destroyed it.

Look, Lieutenant, if you'd rather be back in prison...


Matthew: Something we tend to talk about a lot here at Treknobabble is a marriage of character and sci-fi stories. Sometimes one hits and the other misses. These sorts of episodes are usually middling on our scale. The greatest shows tend to knock both aspects out of the park. This episode, in my estimation, is a solid double on both fronts. As far as the character story, we get an extended look at Janeway and Paris together. They argue about saving the doomed race on Prime Directive grounds, and I loved the detail of Admiral Paris lecturing the family on the Prime Directive at the dinner table. Paris gets to display his compassion and his quick wits, while Janeway shows us her science chops and her intuition. On the other end, B'Elanna gets to innovate as an engineer, and Kes has her psychic abilities developed. We also get some nice tension between Tuvok and Chakotay. So overall, it's pretty strong for the characters, even if there is nothing revelatory.

Kevin: I agree this episode has all the necessary parts and uses them competently. I was a little less in love overall with this episode. I still think it is a good episode, but a few points felt a little short for what could have been a "great" episode for me. Still, I think it's commendable for a show to turn in "solid" so early. We've made a lot of comparisons to TNG and DS9's first season. I don't think that's inappropriate, it was a lot of the same people, so you can really see what they've learned. I would have killed for a workhorse of an episode in the first half of DS9's first season. So, I do agree that the episode succeeds as it manages to do both character and science fiction work. For Janeway, I particularly liked that she seemed committed to upholding the Prime Directive even when faced with the most clear cut of arguments for not, but once she believed she was responsible, she didn't hide behind it. I also liked that they showed Paris clearly chafing at the inability to act, but never crossing the line. Paris will break with the rules with great dramatic effect later in the series, but having him do it now would have undermined the credibility of his position on the ship and the show. And whatever my other problems with the show, the first scene of the crew in the ruins was extremely well done and affecting.

Matthew: This sci-fi story is an allegory mixed with a "brief time travel" plot. I think there is a clear parallel to the nuclear protests that have been common around the world in the past few decades. That aspect is spun into a relatively interesting "do the protesters blow it up?" plot. The added wrinkle of the crew's rescue attempt being the actual cause was pretty fun and mind-bending (though I think it had a few logic problems, which I'll get to below).The brief time travel (i.e. a short time jump, as opposed to hundreds of years) affords the story a certain sense of tension. Janeway and Paris are tantalizingly close, and have precious little time to effect any change in events.  The bit with the melted communicators was pretty effective, as was Kes' sensation of being in contact with their psychic echoes. I was a bit mystified by what seems like a bi-directional causality paradox. The reason they showed up at all was that the planet was destroyed. They get sent back in time, and then the rescue attempt is what causes the disaster. But Kes "knows" Janeway died with her psychic intuition. What is she intuiting? In the reality that eventually winds forward, they never died. Is her intuition only keyed in on some sort of time like portion of the causality loop, and then is erased when the loop is closed? If that's the case, how does she have any remaining psychic intuition, as is indicated in the coda?

Kevin: I like the idea of a short jump. We've talked before about the narrative problem of two timelines, centuries apart, being portrayed as running parallel to each, both facing the same deadline in one of the timelines. Here, the short jump and the accidental means of going back means they have only one chance to get it right and not a lot of time to figure it out. I think what got me about this episode, like Parallax, was the slightly too technobabbly construct of the problem. The subspace fissure has like seven key components all of which are needed to create exactly the problem and solution we got. It reads a little artificial. I think the episode would have really worked best if we got Janeway and Paris stuck in the past and left the Voyager attempts to rescue them out of it. Janeway would have still recognized the impact of their visit on the timeline and the rescue attempt in the power center. It would have left more time for developing these people, which was the other place the episode fell a little flat. Their attempts to blend in are pretty bad. How would you respond to a person who asked you to explain a digital clock? Also, I liked the attempt to show Janeway riffing on the information she got, but it's a little too cute to work credibly for me. I find it hard to believe she would, even with the aid of the universal translator, come off credibly. It would be like an alien saying "I arrived from Europe this morning. Please excuse my complete lack of cultural touch points or awareness of the news, I am from Europe." I probably would have preferred dealing with either their attempts to remain out of sight or engaging the cultural contamination problems head on. Also, I didn't find the politics to be as well developed as they could be. The mechanics of the protesters and how this world worked never quite gelled as well as they should have. Why is there only one guard? If this energy source is this dangerous, it was pretty easy for two people to walk in.

Matthew: I think this was sort of the first "bad Neelix" episode. For starters, he knows nothing about this planet. It's three episodes in, and he sold himself as a guide to the region. He should have at least said "I don't interact with these people because they don't have space travel" or something. The other bad mark for him is his attitude towards Kes. Why is he so disbelieving when Kes tells him about her psychic intuition? He acts like he knows everything about psychic phenomena for no reason we know of, and dismisses all of her feelings.  Why does she like this jerk again?

Kevin: Agreed on all counts. My other problem with the Kes story was that it really didn't impact the story at all. Their tricorders seemed as capable of detecting where they had been as Kes. And as Matt points out, the mechanics of what she sees in which timeline are a little hazy. More than anything, I think it hurts the episode to have Kes still remember the vision of their deaths. If the rescue attempt caused the explosion the first time, creative a loop of luring Voyager and that eventually precipitates the rescue attempt, then Janeway deflecting the rescue attempt, like Cause and Effect, should break the loop. It's not perfect if you think about it too hard, but having Kes still see something from that timeline muddles it further. I did like the scene Kes' involvement afforded her with the doctor. The default to advise drinking lots of fluids made me laugh.

Matthew: Random thoughts -- I like the Delaney sisters bit, though are there any real twin sisters who only double date? The "Darkstorm Tales" mention was a nice detail that indicates a pop culture on the planet. The "confection bar" detail, on the other hand, sounded like bad sci-fi. Question: If their armbands deflect subspace fractures, how can they use one to contact Janeway, or how can Kes sense the past crew through one? This airing gives us the second of two causality paradox stories in a row, but I wasn't really all that annoyed, because it was pretty good as an episode goes.

Kevin: The Delaney sisters bit got a little old for me over the course of the series. I agree that "confection bar" is not good writing. The armband thing got me, too. Like I said above, I think the episode would have been more affecting had we stayed with Janeway and Paris the whole time. It would have allowed for more development of the planet, and removed a lot of my technobabble concerns. My other random thought. Why did they bring Janeway and Paris back to their HQ? They had no idea who they were, though immediately suspected them of being spies. Why not just leave them at the power plant?


Matthew: Mulgrew and Duncan-McNeil can both carry an episode, and pairing them together here results in good chemistry and well-delivered lines. I enjoyed all of their screen time. The rest of the main cast also acquitted themselves well. I was engaged by the debates going on between Tuvok and Chakotay, and the engineering prowess of Torres and Kim. There were really no bum notes with the regular crew.

Kevin: My only critique was that I did not like his "I've been shot," fall with abdomen clutching. I'm not sure the best way to portray getting shot, but that didn't quite do it for me. I agree Mulgrew did a great job. I particularly liked her defense of the Prime Directive. It's an esoteric concept, even in a sci-fi show, and she manages to sell her own faith in its wisdom.

Matthew: This was a pretty decent Jennifer Lien performance. She didn't blow me away, but her pain acting was decidedly non-orgasmic, which is a plus. Luckily, the writers didn't turn Kes into the counselor Troi of the show given the character's psychic abilities. Ethan Phillips didn't strike the best notes with his admittedly crap lines.

Kevin: I didn't like the crying bit on the ship. I agree it is nowhere near PAIN or LONLINESS, but something about it still read as a little forced. The rest of her stuff was fine. She just needed to be a little ethereal about her impressions and that worked fine.

Matthew: The kid was kind of annoying, but it doesn't derail the episode, because for one thing, he's supposed to be, and for another, he's not one of those murderous-rage-inducing Hollywood "mop headed cute kids." I thought the main protesters were pretty good.

Kevin: I didn't like the kid, either. The protesters read a little flat for me. Maybe it was the writing, but everything came off a bit generic.

Production Values

Matthew: This show was a pretty high-production value episode. They juxtaposed the destroyed and burned sets really well with the vibrant, living ones. The matte work of the power plant was excellent, recalling Hiroshima or Chernobyl. The power plant location itself was really good, and they chose good backdrops that looked vaguely futuristic. The optical effects on the polaric rift generator were really cool, as was the effect of the phaser beam fighting it off. The gunfights and squibs were well done, too. We also get the circular corridor from STV and Sins of the Father.

Kevin: The matte is a reuse of the Starfleet Academy water reclamation plant, and was pretty good. The flipping back and forth was very well achieved, but the world felt a little small for the most part. The courtyard was clearly a sound stage and the opaque glass ceilings didn't help it from feeling closed off. The entrance to the power plant felt a little underwhelming for me. Were they protesting at the employee entrance? I will say I did really, really like the causeway they were walking down in the hostage scene. First, I do love a good location shot, and the scenery and background were really interesting. I did really like the rift generator in engineering. The moving camera really enhanced how good the optical effect creating the rift was.

Matthew: The production falls down a tad on the aliens themselves. For one thing, they look like humans. Pretty convenient. The fashion... it was a bit uniform, wasn't it? On the one hand, I congratulate them on creating a look. I just would have preferred either 3 or 4 looks, or an explanation for that uniformity. The "European carryalls" were a swishy touch.

Kevin: Yeah. The lack of any differentiation was a little annoying, as it clearly was done only to serve the plot. Also, we've done uniform fashion before, but they've done it better. The color combinations are oddly garish, and not in a fun to look at way, like Quark's jackets.


I'm going with a 4 on this. I was engaged the whole way through, and my brain was tickled by the paradox plot. I also really dug the focus on Janeway and Paris, who have proven to have a great rapport. I think it's solidly above average when compared to the body of Trek.

Kevin: This is a definite 3 for me. The set up is novel and the opening scenes in the ruins are quite effective. The sheer amount of technobabble on the Voyager side, and the slightly underdone aliens on the planet side combined with a paradox solution that's a tad inconsistent keep this from being a 4 for me. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy this episode and think, especially for an early outing, it's very good, and as Matt points out, the characters are dead on consistent so far, but the finished product is just "good" for me. That makes a total of 7.


  1. ok, here i am keeping it short. Boring. This episode can be summarized as being majorly boring. I always skip it on re-watch.