Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Review: Voyager 3.21: Before and After

Well, they got this make up completely wrong.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Twenty-One - Before and After
Written 7/10/15

When you look back on Voyager as a whole and see how Kes actress Jennifer Lien was asked to leave at the end of the third season, you may be under the impression that she wasn't a very important character in the show, hence why she was written out. Needless to say, this is not true. Right now we're a good five episodes before the season finale, Scorpion, and until that episode, this was supposed to be building up for the departure of Harry Kim. Hence why this episode, an interesting and well-executed time travel story, has Kes as its main star, and features an alternate future in which Kes is still on Voyager, there is no Seven of Nine, and Neelix worms his way into more important ship functions. Eugh.
     Kes awakens - an old woman, surrounded by family, on her deathbed. She feels cold, and when she awakens she is in her own quarters, no more the wiser. In her first memory, she was being put into a special chamber to extend her life, but now The Doctor claims that that hasn't happened yet. As Kes keeps flashing back into the past at greater and greater intervals. Kes discovers the problem - roughly one year into Season Three's "present", Voyager encounters a race known as the Krenim who use time-based torpedos. Kes is infected with Time-radiation, and the special chamber activates this radiation and starts sending her consciousness backwards. Kes soon reaches "the present", and despite having little to work from, The Doctor is able to stabilise her. Kes regains her memories of the past, while still retaining the memories of the alternate future she has now erased.
     The time-travel aspect of the narrative makes this episode instantly memorable - it's rare that Voyager tampers with episode structure like this, but it works. Taking a page from the book of DS9's The Visitor, the Time-Travel aspect of the story is given a very light dusting of technobabble explanation, with the format of the story being used as a unique mechanism to develop Kes all over again. This story takes the view that Kes is still herself even if all of her memories were removed. I loved the little nods to some of the stranger aspects of her character - Kes is baffled at the idea that she was once "involved" with Neelix, and both she and her mother are shown to be giving birth through a sac on their upper back. (From the absurd alien biology of Elogium).
The bitterness on Tom Paris' face is award-worthy.
     It was also a fun use of alternate timelines. Apparently, in a future in which Kes stays and Seven of Nine never appears, B'Elanna and Janeway are killed in Season Four. Paris falls back on his old crush and gets together with Kes, and just over a year after the birth of their first daughter, Linnis, she too gets pregnant by Harry Kim (eugh) and they have a son, called Andrew. (There is suprisingly no appearance by Naomi Wildman, who would go on to appear as a child in the next season and beyond.) I love how often Voyager writes its own fanfic.
     I don't know, this episode often leaves me underwhelmed. Perhaps that's because I've seen it so many times - this is an episode I've been inspired to rewatch a lot. The sci-fi plot is fun and very well executed, although if we go back to my time-travel discussion, we miss the huge thing that every time Kes goes back, she in essence travels to (or creates) a brand new Universe. I liked Kes' development, but it didn't run very much in sync with the plot from Darkling, which I wish had been done better here. Shipping Kes with Tom Paris feels so much like a step backwards for the character that even if it's in this form, a fun "what-if" game, it still stings a little bit. Oh, Kes. You could have had so much better.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: The brilliant-yet-also-kinda-appalling Real Life!

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