Thursday, 19 September 2013

Review: Voyager 1.4: Time and Again

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Janeway makes her timeline, and this episode,
vanish from the timeline.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Four - Time and Again
Written 21/5/13

Time Travel and Voyager are like two childhood friends who bring out the worst in each other whenever they decide to meet up, getting drunk and stealing shopping trolleys only to dump them in a canal where small aquatic creatures use them for sustenance. This first Time Travel episode comes oddly close to the premiere, but shows in all its glory just how silly Voyager Time Travel can get. It's also our first look (post-premiere) of a standard Voyager alien civilisation, where the fashion still for some reason mimics that of 1990s America.
     The ship is hit by a shockwave, tracked back to a now-desolate Class-M planet. Upon investigation, they discover that the planet's civilisation used a dangerous energy source (going for a Nuclear Energy parallel here, I see) that eventually led to a planet-wide explosion. Due to some technobabble, the explosion's aftereffects have opened time pockets, through which Janeway and Paris accidentally stumble. While the crew try to open a pocket up to retrieve them, using Kes' magic psychic powers to trace their movements, Janeway and Paris attempt to stop the explosion in the past. They realise that Voyager's attempts to save them end up causing the explosion, so Janeway strands herself in the past and the timeline is erased, leading to Voyager passing the M-Class planet without incident.
     This episode sees the first reference to one of Voyager's favourite calling cards, the Prime Directive. Back in The Next Generation, the Prime Directive was a rule that forbade advanced species in Starfleet from interfering with pre-Warp civilisations, preventing them from creating very one-sided power dynamics. Here it's used when Janeway and Paris are stuck on the planet and cannot explain who they are for fear of breaking the Directive. Later in the series it would be used so often for so many varying purposes that it becomes a little hard to keep track.
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Janeway and Paris, in their Rocket Lolly costumes.
     I found the episode's broken time-loop a little frustrating. Reset button plots (hey, another Voyager favourite) are always going to be slightly distressing because there's very little that can be brought forward from it. Their experiences on the planet have provided absolutely zero development for any of our characters, and effectively we might as well forget this episode ever existed. Which, with its bland attempts to create a Nuclear Energy parable, it is frighteningly easy to do.
     So far, it's a little difficult to see how Voyager got me into Star Trek at all. I started on the last season, which is a big habit of mine with lots of US shows, but I must say that when the syndicated episodes came round to the first season I was more than a little disappointed. However, for all of its weirdness, next week delivers us an episode with a bit more substance to it. I think that says all I need to say about Time and Again's ultimate mediocrity.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Holographic lungs! Neelix gets hurt, painfully! Aliens who steal your face in a very literal sense! It's the Phage!

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