Thursday, April 16, 2015

Voyager, Season 3: Before and After

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Voyager, Season 3
"Before and After"
Airdate: April 9, 1997
62 of 168 produced
62 of 168 aired

Introduction

Kes finds herself on the day of her death with no memories. Then, she begins to phase out and wake up, earlier and earlier in her own life each time.

Tom penetrates Kes' birthing sac. Neelix won't like this!






Writing

Matthew: There are a number of clever aspects to this story that heighten its enjoyability. First of course is the willingness of the creative staff to show us the future of Voyager, and to make some of it stick long term. Future stories like "Future Imperfect" or "All Good Things" provide good drama, since they allow us to radically change characters. Here, Tom and Harry get married, Chakotay becomes captain, the Doctor gets some hair and a name, and Kes, the central character, grows old and dies. There is a lot of inherent interest generated, even if each thread doesn't get the attention it might be able to bear. I especially liked how Tom and B'Elanna were shown as romantically involved, which advances them from their "present" situation. The preview of "Year of Hell" was cool and effective.

Kevin: The upside of this kind of episode is that it really lets you play with expectations since you don't have to really worry about consequences. The risk of course is that it could come off as silly or cheap. I think what elevates this episode is that it builds on existing relationships with Tom and B'Elanna. That little bit of flirt on the holodeck was just great. The other bit I really like is the setup of Janeway's death with seeing Chakotay as Captain, then seeing her death AND then seeing the crew deal with the consequences. Even if you could accuse the episode of the use of the Galactic Reset Button, it felt better than other uses, since we got to feel the punch for a moment before the pulled it. If only the rest of the series had such an energetic sense of consequence.

Matthew: The reverse time travel aspect of the story was a clever pacing device, with various things that became more and more undeveloped as the story went on. I don't know quite how logical the regression was, especially since it seemed to go back well before the putative beginning of the infection by radiation that precipitated it, it seemed to put Kes at just the right moments to advance the plot (especially the torpedo), and the mechanics of the "travel" were weird. If Kes has no memories except those from the prior (later) time frame, why does she physically look like her younger self? Is just her "mind" doing the traveling? Why does she remember functional aspects of her life, but not factual elements? Anyway, it still is an interesting situation to put a character in, and the episode did a good job of showing that Kes was awkward with Paris, but could eventually see how they worked together as a couple. What I'm not entirely clear on is why she lacked memories. Just what is it that is traveling back in time, if it is not the Kes who stepped into the bio-temporal chamber in the first place? Was she suffering from some sort of dementia? Some sort of drama is supposed to be generated by the notion that she might travel back beyond her birth - the Doctor speaks the line, the music gets dire... but what's in danger again?

Kevin: The moment the episode went off the deep end was when zygote Kes started moving forward again. It just reeks of deus ex machina. There is no reason her jumps should precede her being radiated and certainly no reason her conception should be some pivot point. My only other real complaint is not really one that I can lobby at this episode. It's that when we finally get to Year of Hell, no one seems to remember the events of this episode.

Matthew: Despite any nagging logic issues, what definitely works about this story is the character relationships and the way characters are drawn. Kes of course gets loads of development, and independent of whether it's wasted given her ultimate departure from the show, it really works. She is shown as competent, valued, inquisitive, and not the sort of pointless wallflower she has been in so many episodes. Tom Paris gets loads of development, too. First off, with Kes, he comes off as mature and responsible. But with B'Elanna, too, I think this episode does a pretty good job of advancing his character to the point that we not only believe, but want to see him paired up romantically. The Doctor was shown as a dynamic and interesting presence, too.

Kevin: I made the argument several times over in TNG, and it applies here. A multitude of plotting sins can be covered by an episode that really works on an entertainment level and this one certainly achieved that. The relationship between Tom and Kes and Tom and B'Elanna really intrigue the viewer. The idea that the other characters grow and change over the course of the next seven years is a fun one, too.

Acting

Matthew: Jennifer Lien really dug into this role. Her "old" acting was really excellent, with good line readings, and physical acting choices for that matter. She portrayed her discomfort at being married to a stranger quite nicely. In this story, her breathy sort of sensitivity really worked well, too.

Kevin: She played the confusion well, and it made her evolving understanding work really well. It was fun watching her competently make the same realizations the audience was making. It gives credit to both the writers and the actress. Other episodes have used Kes' exotic psychic abilities to try to give the character this kind of depth and ability, and I think it was unnecessary. Clearly her, she can just exude those qualities by having them.

Matthew: I didn't love the casting on young Kes. She didn't seem physically the type, and her voice was a bit irritating. Jessica Collins was quite good as Linnis. She really fit in to the Starfleet blues, and I totally bought her character's various commitments and fears. Christopher Aguilar was notably swishy as Andrew, but I also bought him in the role.


Kevin: The only off notes for me acting-wise were Tom and Linnis and Tom and Harry. No one was doing a bad job, but Tom and Linnis did not read as father and daughter. I understand that the unique nature of Ocampa should modulate that, and of course the actors are about the same age, but I didn't get a sense that Tom had the gravitational pull a parent has over even (or especially) an adult child. Also, Harry and Tom's friendship, despite the joke about being father and son-in-law, didn't scan either. It has to be a little weird when the person you used to go hit on women with as a peer starts dating your daughter. Even in the apparently sex-positive, egalitarian society, that kind of role shift should make their relationship feel different to the viewer and it didn't.


Production Values

Matthew: The Krenim ship and chroniton torpedo both looked excellent. The effects shots of the ship being attacked were well done, and the ship damage, though not perfect, was a pretty good use of CGI.

Kevin: I agree, particularly in the Jeffries tube scene, the prop was awesome.

Matthew: The age makeup on Kes was pretty good, certainly better than TOS, and probably just as good as that on "All Good Things." Kes' old lady clothes were... weird. I will say that the staging on the ship was a bit overly dark for my tastes.

Kevin: Kes' old age clothes looked like the heavy, shapeless materials we seem to dress old people in in the real world, so points for veracity. I don't think the make-up jobs on Linnis and Andrew were great. I get that they were trying to portray a hybrid ear, but particularly with Linnis' hair, it just didn't come off for the viewer.

Conclusion

Matthew: This episode is crisp and enjoyable, and it tickles my brain with possibilities enough to rate a 4. The performances are also quite involving, especially Lien and McNiell. Anything higher is off the table because of the squishy logic.It's kind of too bad that Lien was axed, given her work here. I think there were some places they could have gone with the character's age issues that she could have capitalized on.

Kevin: I agree with the four, for a total of eight. The set up is certainly interesting and there is an entertaining energy that suffused the whole episode. If nothing else, episodes like these make Lien's imminent departure all the more sad.

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