Monday, July 16, 2018

Voyager, Season 5: Relativity, Season 5
Airdate: May 12, 1999
116 of 168 produced
116 of 168 aired


Seven of Nine must think on her feet when she is abducted by time travelers and charged with saving Voyager from destruction.

Joe Kerry strikes out with the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, but will not remember three years down the road for some reason.


Matthew: Why tell a time travel story? Unless you're willing to do a hell of a lot of work to make the mechanics of it clever and interesting, not to mention consistent logically, the other valid reason is to develop characters in a meaningful way. Was "City On The Edge of Forever" without any holes in logic? No. (For instance, why not just travel back an hour and prevent McCoy from running through the Guardian in the first place?) But it told a wonderful character story that could only have been precipitated by the time travel present. What we have here is not as wrenching as "City," and is more on the level of, say "Time's Arrow," except for the fact that similar ground has already been plumbed with Seven and Janeway. At a minimum, it is fun to see Seven of Nine try to blend in, to take radical changes in stride, and so on.

Kevin: I concur. I think the episode definitely sets a tone and a pace that it keeps consistent throughout and is enjoyable to watch in and of itself. It passes the important test of not drawing attention to the plot holes until I'm done watching it. The worst you can say is that for whatever elements worked, they may have to worked to greater dramatic effect in earlier outings. Still, the clash of watching Seven navigate a pre-Seven Voyager is worth a few laughs.

Matthew: I thought the idea of having Captain Braxton go rogue and try to undo his own suffering in the timeline to be novel and interesting. Of course someone would try to do so. Did I really understand arresting him for crimes he was going to commit? No. I cannot think of a philosophical justification for that, unless it is much better established that the timeline is inexorable (which is belied by the whole episode). Did I understand the "jump limit" that was placed on various characters? Uh, no. Did I understand the idea of "integrating" various versions of a given individual? Hell, no. The episode seemed to posit that people could remember changes from previous portions of the timeline, but no one remembered the stunning blonde crewman who happened to look exactly like the Borg they just picked up? These were all relatively lazy writing crutches. I did, however, enjoy seeing future Starfleet, even if we did not explore the ramifications of such a species-altering technology.

Kevin: That's the problem with time travel. It's magic in almost it's purest form. Time travel is an easy way to both introduce and solve a problem and you can sculpt it by fiat to your story. Good stories, like the aforementioned City, manage to wring such character drama that you don't even really pause to think about it. Fun stories, like Star Trek IV, manage to be so gosh darn delightful you almost get mad at the pedant trying to ruin your evening. Yes, I get it. The Klingon dilithium crystals was the height of a McGuffin, but if you think I care a single whit, you are extremely wrong. This episode falls squarely in the middle of the continuum.

Matthew: Whatever inconsistency there was in storytelling was more than ameliorated by the fun, light tone of the episode. The various looks at different eras in the show was great (though they missed a chance to show "future Voyager"). Captain Janeway in particular had a lot of fun scenes, sussing things out, and expressing exasperation at temporal hijinks. Whatever my questions were, my cerebrum was tickled (if left somewhat unsatisfied) and my limbic system was engaged throughout - I was smiling and chuckling almost the whole way through.

Kevin: Just to balance what has been our genuine, if occasionally lukewarm praise for the episode, I will say that there are two avenues of stories that could have been looked at with a little more vigor was either Braxton's story or Seven's relationship with Janeway. Braxton's plot raises a whole bunch of Minority Report problems that go unexamined. Though the more interesting one to me may have been having Seven spend more time with Season 1 Janeway. How does she get Janeway to trust her? Is Janeway a sufficiently different person than she will be in Season 4? Will a more by-the-book Starfleet officer she was then make trusting Seven too hard? As much as I have complained on the increasingly over-reliance on their interactions as a plot device, really pushing the edges of that could have been fun.


Matthew: Jeri Ryan was excellent. She portrayed Seven of Nine's discomfort with rapidly changing circumstances, but also her steely resolve. She also does an excellent "nonplussed dubiousness" when faced with outlandish claims. Speaking of which Kate Mulgrew's outright exasperation at the ridiculousness of the situation really sold the episode. I'd give my eye teeth to know what their beef was, but the actresses actually have quite good chemistry together.

Kevin: Mulgrew's eyerolls were pretty good, no doubt about it. And Jeri Ryan is in the same cllass as her and Picardo where it basically feels redundant to praise her acting. She's a good actress and she brought the right amount of skepticism to the part.

Matthew: I really liked both Bruce McGill's Captain Braxton as well as Jay Karnes' Commander Ducane. It's a tricky thing, being asked to do a one-off episode, but to appear as people with lives and relationships that span the time before and after this episode. I believed they were a ship crew, and I wanted to watch their show. Dakin Matthews was about as prototypical a Starfleet admiral as you could get, and I mean that in a good way.

Kevin: Matthews shows up on a couple of West Wing episodes and lands that same vibe of somewhere between officious and avuncular depending on the needs of the script. I like Karnes as Ducane a lot too. He seemed to really be enjoying himself. Bruce McGill is a prototypical That Guy. He has been in pretty much a million things but you probably couldn't pin down one of them from memory. That said, there's a reason his list of credits is as long as my arm, and it's because he's a good actor. I would have liked to have seen his take on Braxton the first time.

Production Values

Matthew: The shipyard at Utopia Planitia was wonderful to look at. It's a shame Voyager will likely never get ported onto Blu-Ray, because I bet that sequence at its native resolution looks even better. Ah, well. Speaking of ship designs, the Relativity was interesting at least, and certainly provided visual interest.

Kevin: Since I'm betting most of that was digitally created, that may be its native resolution, which I think is what is making DS9 and VOY so cost prohibitive even if the TNG ones had sold better, that the effects would have to be completely redone from scratch as opposed to cleaned up and supplemented like the more model based TNG was. That said, I agree. That shot in HD would be gorgeous. And as an additional hattip, the tableau itself was interesting separate from any techinical achievement. They made it look like a real place, not just a place designed to look cool.

Matthew: The future props were nice, as were the future bridge and future uniforms. The Relativity Bridge was better that most one-off bridge sets, and seemed reasonably functional. Speaking of visual effects, I also liked the ping pong match. It was well staged, and the frozen ball was convincing. Similarly, there was a split screen with two Sevens that was very well done, seamless even.

Kevin: My only real production critique is that they thought they could disguise Seven of Nine by removing her eyebrow implant. She is literally one of the most striking women I have ever seen. I met her once for six seconds twenty years ago, and I honestly think even without having watched the show, I would still remember her if I ran into her again. They should have made her a brunette for the episode, is what I'm saying.


I think this is a 4 overall. I can see an argument for a 3 (but no less), given the bits of laziness in storytelling. But the fun comic performances and the visuals make up for quite a bit. A 5 would have been on the table with more emphasis on deep sci-fi questions or more cleverly thought out consistency in time travel storytelling.

Kevin: I swear I am not drawing this comparison as an insult, but judging this episode reminds me of Rascals. That was an episode with a patently LUDICROUS PLOT. That said, a combination of charm and brio and genuine character insight transmutes it into an episode I unironically enjoy watching. This is that theory, but applied to an episode with a substantially better, but by no means perfect, story. Whatever plot questions go unanswered, there is a strong performance from a charismatic pair of leads leavened by some genuinely charming moments. Tack onto that a long shot of Utopia Planitia, and you got yourself a four from me, for a total of eight.


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