Airdate: September 25, 1995
21 of 168 produced
20 of 168 aired
Harry Kim dreams of a shuttle accident in the Delta Quadrant... but wakes up in the bed of his fiancee Libby, on Earth.
In this reality, Harry's billiards etiquette leaves much to be desired.
Matthew: So this episode seems designed for me to love it. It's got an alternate reality metaphysical hook, a look at 24th century Earth, and a Paris/Kim bro-mance. I do think each of these story elements is executed successfully, with perhaps the alternate reality being the weakest, and the bro-mance the strongest. I'll address the problem areas below but I want to start off with how cool this story is tonally. I'm sure I'm not alone in liking sci-fi tales in which the world is just wrong somehow, and this one, which plays against the premise of the show so strongly, is lots of fun. Of course, I do think Harry knowing that things are wrong presents serious logic questions, but whatever. I enjoyed Harry feeling trapped in a world that is not quite familiar, getting caught up in trying to fix it, being accused of wrongdoing in the process. It all works on an emotional and tone level. We also get some nice back story with Harry's relationship with Libby.
Kevin: I agree. This episode hearkens back to episodes like "Future Imperfect," and in particular "The Inner Light." I agree that Harry immediately realizing something is wrong creates a logic problem, but the Twilight Zone tone of the first half of the episode was great. I'm glad they resisted a full on "Voyager was all a dream," since we did that two episodes ago in "Projections." They also hit the exact right emotional chord with the correct character for this story. Harry is the one who wants to go home the most and is the least seasoned officer in the bunch. My only complaint really on the emotional side of things is I think they could have made it a more difficult choice for Harry. I could easily see Janeway or Tuvok quickly committing to setting things right, but Harry woke up in his girlfriend's arms and I think it should have been more obviously difficult for him to leave.
Matthew: The bro-mance here is thick and rewarding. Why exactly is Paris also back here? That's a dicey question (a lame attempt is made to tie it into Harry's absence on DS9, but it doesn't really explain things), but in the end immaterial, because the plot affords us a nice look at "Loser Tom," his bad habits at Chez Sandrine, and what the absence of his friendship with Harry means to his character. I like that the Paris character shows his true colors when the chips are down, seizing the opportunity to do something important with himself when Harry shows up.
Kevin: I appreciate the attempt to at least explain his presence on Earth. I like the look we get at the Paris' character, it reinforces his redemption arc on Voyager proper.
Matthew: I enjoyed seeing 24th century Earth, and a slice of daily life there. Seeing people at day jobs in Starfleet was interesting, as were the city scenes in San Francisco. I do have questions - how did Harry score that swank pad? How did Starfleet know that Harry had visited Marsailles, as well as the content of his conversation with Paris? How does Paris clock a Starfleet security guy and no one lifts a finger to stop him? Either way, it all added some nice flavor to the story.
Kevin: Down and out in the 24th century isn't half bad, is it? You apparently get to play pool and drink all day. I like the look at San Francisco as well. Between this and the look we get at Earth in Homefront/Paradise Lost, it does a great job of making Earth seem not just idyllic, but lived in. It's one thing to say you've solved poverty, but people coming out of a tube station and buying coffee immediately makes that all more credible.
Matthew: The least successful aspects of this story are the nuts and bolts of the alternate reality plot. So some sort of "collision" with the "time stream" did this, right? Cosimo intimates that things got "scrambled a bit" or something. Huh? Sounds like a lack of desire to explain it reasonably well. If the timeline were altered, why would Harry be dropped into this scenario with absolutely no knowledge? Or is this an alternate quantum reality? If so, where is the displaced Kim from this reality? Where is the guy Cosimo has displaced as proprietor? If these aliens are so concerned as to place an agent to "help him adjust" (memo to aliens: you did a crap job there), couldn't they just fix things? Where is this "time stream" anyway? Kim collided with it in the Delta Quadrant, but re-enters it in the Alpha Quadrant. Is it everywhere, like the Nexus? Is it similarly poorly thought out? As many of these alternate timeline stories do, it relies on the "blow ship up/sacrifice life" to reset timeline trope to conclude things, but it isn't really clear whether alt-Tom just plain, as opposed to resetting one prime timeline.
Kevin: I bring this up in the podcast, but here's where the same idea in Inner Light is more successful. We know that it's a dream from the scenes on the bridge, but the emotional core that was the focus of the story made that successful. Here, the set up and solution were too neat and unexplained, and the episode didn't instead focus on the internal debate Harry would have in deciding whether or not to come back.
Matthew: Garrett Wang gets a lot of guff, but I think he does a respectable job as an everyman. He's no Olivier, but he conveys the emotions he needs to, and I believe his relationships with Libby and Tom. Robert Duncan McNeill is predictably excellent in a darker Paris role.
Kevin: I liked McNeill's turn on the Paris character this time. And I agree, Harry did a good job and had at least decent chemistry with Gatti.
Matthew: Jennifer Gatti has a certain something. She radiates "girl next door" even though she looks like some sort of 90s figure skater (bonus points for naming which one). I liked all of the supporting Starfleet characters. Jack Shearer is one of those guys who seems born to play a Starfleet Admiral, and Mark Kiely is a very credible junior officer in charge of an engineering project.
Kevin: This is a better outing for her than Ba'el in Birthright, for if nothing else, the script is more solid. I really bought her disbelief that Harry suddenly seems to want to leave.
Matthew: I was not enamored of Louis Giambalvo in the Cosimo role. Now granted, he's some sort of "time stream alien," but I just felt like he never seemed to be a part of the Trek universe. His delivery, his accent, his physical presence, all just seemed off, and not in a good way. More in the "what am I doing here, call my agent" sort of way.
Kevin: I don't think he was bad per se, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that he doesn't feel a part of the universe. You can do ordinary guy, you can do etherally distant, but he really did neither. The script didn't help him, but he still didn't really add any energy.
Matthew: There were a lot of reuses of movie footage in this one, including ST4 (Starfleet command), ST6 (Golden Gate Bridge) and TMP shots of shuttle arriving. Then, we have the oft-used runabout explosion from DS9, as well as the Dyson Sphere door doubling for the spacedock door for some odd reason. That's the only one that really grates. I get re-using resources to save money. It's a fun game for dedicated fans to spot the footage. But there must have been a better shot of the space doors that could have been used.
Kevin: The reuses, except for the Dyson Sphere, were great. My only complaint on that front (and I can't believe Matt didn't get there first) but the film grain in the different reuses was different enough to be noticeable.
Matthew: All of the Earth sets were great. They used the NYC backlot, with painted red bricks on the street, to stand in for SF. I liked the way they dressed it, with greenery, benches, and subway signage. I think the condo set is a re-use from DS9's "Past Tense," but the way it was dressed was terrific. It looked like a real space, and had lots of great details in doors and rafters. The Starfleet office sets were nice, with diplomas, work desks, and good windows. Sandrines is a nice set and looks good here.
Kevin: My only complaint about the San Francisco sets is that it was a little too clean for a city set. It wasn't distracting, just noticeable. I did like the sheer number of varied extras. That went a long way to making the city feel real. I know it would have been cost-prohibitive, but a shot tracking Harry all the way to work could have been truly awesome. I did also really love the apartment. The mattes and the sunlight through the windows were fantastic.
Matthew: Tom and Libby's outfits are... not good. At least Libby was half naked most of the time. But no amount of being down and out excuses that vest on Tom.
Kevin: It's clearly very nineties. The dress matching tights matching shoes feels straight out an episode of Melrose Place. That being said, I'll take blandly and inexplicably contemporary over some other attempts at future fashion. And seriously, did Paris take a regular vest and just turn it inside out?
Matthew: Some greater consistency with details and explanations could have put this in the 5 range. The tone and the emotional chops of the story are that good. But nagging questions drag this into an enjoyable but flawed 4. I always enjoy this on a Voyager watch-through.
Kevin: I think the narrative problems hold this to a three. Inner Light succeeded by dispensing quickly and effectively with the "reality" question and then used the time to tell a really gripping emotional story. I think the episode should have picked one track or the other. The emotional impact of the incident or the mechanics of it. Still, this is a great episode for Harry's backstory and a fun look at an oft overlooked part of the Trek universe. That makes a total of 7.