Sunday, October 15, 2017

Voyager, Season 5: Timeless, Season 5
Airdate: November 18, 1998
100 of 168 produced
99 of 168 aired


It's Voyager 100th episode, and it's a doozy. The episode opens to find Voyager buried under a sheet of ice and a much older Chakotay and Harry Kim executed a daring plan to save it.

If there were an organ responsible for fandom, it would be visibly erect right now.


Kevin: The episode teaser is pretty tight and sets up some fun questions. According to Memory Alpha, the writers initially wanted to make the entire teaser without words, but it proved too difficult but the dialogue was kept to a minimum. I agree less is more here and wish they had taken another crack at the no dialogue version. I think that would have been really fun. In any event, the set up is definitely cool. Used sparingly, the conceit of destroying the ship, even knowing the episode will find a way around it, always manages to make an impact on the viewer.

Matthew: I wholeheartedly agree. The teaser was dark and mysterious. I kind of wonder what a non-Trekkie would think if they happened upon the episode flipping channels. I imagine the combination of music, visuals, and minimal dialogue tension would draw people in, like a dark science fiction movie or something.

Kevin: Overall, I think the story manages to evade most of the pitfalls of time travel and not feel like another iteration of the "Gilligan's Island" curse that befalls any attempt to get home. No one physically travels through time, and they even do a good job defusing that standard trope of the two timelines' narratives running in sync. When the Doctor points out, "Isn't the past still there waiting?" I was delighted.

Matthew: I think they should have explained with a bit more force whey they couldn't just do six more short jumps with the slipstream drive. But yes, emotionally, enough of consequence happens that it doesn't feel terribly cheap. The tension of the timeline stuff initially feels cheap, but then stands up to analysis. The tension is actually entirely on the future end, not the past (though the past feels tense). Chakotay and Kim are criminals, and only have a brief window to make their attempt to communicate with the past. The line they gave Harry that he had made these corrections over ten years and couldn't fix them in three minutes brought the dilemma into focus nicely.

Kevin: Where the episode falls a little short for me is the character work. I think they just tried to pack too much into the story in the time allotted. Leaving either survivor-guilt-ridden Harry or Chakotay with his girlfriend, it would have given the plot more room to breathe. Particularly for Tessa, her motivation was given short shrift. It's not that I can't believe that she would be willing to help a person she loves even if the result is them never meeting, but that kind of complexity needs a little more time than we got.

Matthew: This is one of two big missed opportunities here. Time travel stories need a reason to exist. "City on the Edge of Forever" exists to give Captain Kirk an insoluble dilemma - putting his love for a woman against his desire to restore his world. Either choice can be justified, and it makes for really engaging viewing. By not giving Chakotay and Main Squeeze X a similar dilemma, some drama is left on the table. Creating character stakes also needs to be done, since the basic mode of operation of Trek time travel stories has been "if you fix it, you'll cease to exist," rendering any impending death rather toothless. Making the focus Harry is probably inherently less interesting, but the scene at the end with Harry seeing his recording at least went some way to provoking us and giving us something strange to chew on that only science fiction story could. I would have liked a deeper exploration of whether that Harry is really gone, or if all possibilities still remain in a broader timeline continuum. It would be a special, Sisyphean sort of hell to not know whether your attempted change ever had an effect.

Kevin: The appearance of LeVar Burton (who also directed) was nice, light touch at fan service. It was nice to see him and imagine the the sequence of events that led him to command, but it didn't drag the episode away from its main story. It was also nice to see him acknowledge that if the situation were reversed, he might be doing the same thing for his crew.

Matthew: I think that was probably the best stretch of dialogue (and acting) in the entire episode. Any starship crew member worth their salt would feel the same sort of pull towards attempting to interfere and save their crewmates. When Geordi suggested they meet face to face, though, I really wished they had. I would have enjoyed a more thorough look at why it is the right thing or the wrong thing to do, depending on perspective. That, along with the aforementioned undeveloped relationship with Tessa (or whoever) were the real missed opportunities here.


Kevin: I don't think I'll shock anyone by saying that neither Chakotay nor Kim are my favorite characters and if we ranked critical comments by volume, I would say they definitely top the list, so if I were the writer, I would probably not have picked them. That said, I liked Beltran here. There was a longing in his sadness that I responded too. Christine Harnoss did a good a job as she could in the time constraints, and I bought the chemistry between the two, even as I raise the slightest of eyebrows over the obvious age difference.

Matthew: Robert Beltran is a handsome man, and the character is portrayed as a strong, "still waters run deep" type. So I didn't balk at the age gap. And I agree, she brought something to a role that added more depth than the rather thin script gave us.

Kevin: As for Garrett Wang, I just don't think he has it for this one. I found his frustration faces less than convincing. He wasn't bad per se, but it didn't set me on fire the way I presume Mulgrew, Ryan, Dawson, or Picardo would have. The Doctor was fun here. I liked his range of responses all delivered with tiny facial expressions and the verbal equivalent of a splash of cold water to Kim was super enjoyable.

Matthew: Robert Picardo was definitely a highlight. He shaded his performance in such a way as to indicate his concern for Harry subtly. Garrett Wang wasn't the best part of the show, and "Dark Harry" is perhaps a bit of a stretch. But at the end of the day, I enjoyed the portrayal. It didn't move me or anything, but it worked well enough to anchor that aspect of the episode.

Production Values

Kevin: This was certainly the highlight of the episode. Voyager under the ice was really well done, and the crash scene is certainly among the best work the show has done thus far. The sets were really well dressed and the cutting from present and future locations really helped sell the story. Overall, the episode felt appropriately ambitious. It was clear from the get go that they wanted to do something big for the 100th episode and I think they succeeded.

Matthew: Seeing the Galaxy Class ship in pursuit was the kind of fan service that makes the heart beat faster and the emotions swell. It looked spectacular. The crash sequence was also truly excellent. Yes, you could tell it was CGI, and yes, the CGI was very late nineties, but it was well composed. Art can triumph over technical limitations, and it did here. The redress of the Voyager sets looked really solid. I bought the hoar-frost iciness of it, and it didn't look like spray foam.

Kevin: The prop work for Seven's skull was terrifyingly good. For me, I think it was the artificial eye still attached. That was some grim work, prop people. I kind of hope it survived and is currently a paperweight on some PA's desk.

Matthew: Props generally were well done. The little doo dads they used to reactivate the ship, the Borg transmitter and Seven's skull, it all worked.


Kevin: This is a hearty 4 for me. The technical ambition is there and well achieved. I think this would be a five if they dug into the character work a little more deeply, but overall, this is always a fun one to rewatch and reaches that category of "reason to issue a Voyager Blu-Ray."

Matthew: Yes, more ambition in either the sci-fi or the emotional dilemmas would have propelled this to a 5. But it's consistently entertaining from a writing perspective and above average in at least production values. So that brings our rating to an 8 overall.


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