Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Time and Again"

**

Air date: 1/30/1995
Teleplay by David Kemper and Michael Piller
Story by David Kemper
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"We ate him. Because we are demons and we eat children ... and I haven't had my supper yet." — Paris to inquisitive kid

Voyager displays one more way how to be derivative of TNG by offering an exercise in not one, but two dependable Star Trek cliches—the Violation of the Prime Directive and Crew Members Lost in Time motifs. What is basically a tame, mundane, lackluster time story fortunately displays some energy in the closing act with a halfway punchy (though somewhat predictable) ending. Fans of the other Trek series will surely find this as more of the same.

The series has obvious potential, but again refuses to use it by telling a story that could just as easily have been told on TNG or DS9. These are not the episodes that should have used to launch the series. The writers should've delivered two knockouts to get the audiences going. Instead, they supply two relatively pedestrian plots.

While cruising through a star system, a sub-space shockwave alerts the Voyager to a planet whose entire population has just been annihilated by subspace radiation. Upon beaming down to investigate, the away team discovers fractures in time caused by the aftereffects. Janeway and Paris "fall" into one of these cracks, and find themselves shifted back approximately one day in the past where the planet's population is alive and well, without the slightest clue they're going to be gone tomorrow.

Unfortunately, after act one's setup, we get fairly uneventful acts two, three and four. We get into the issue with the Prime Directive again, as Janeway orders an exasperated Paris not to warn anybody what is going to happen. The rest of the Voyager crew begins to look for a way to retrieve Janeway and Paris through time, which means we get another episode mired in technobabble.

The cast goes through the motions but doesn't strike any notes. We learn nearly nothing new about the characters or their personalities, and the dialog lacks strength. There's a bit with Kes' telepathic abilities, as she "sees" the deaths of everyone on the planet in her sleep. But her scenes come across as needlessly melodramatic, marked by the bothersome sight of her breaking into tears on Neelix's shoulder over the horrible sight. Saving some grace is Robert Picardo's amiable performance as the holographic doctor (who comes across as the episode's most interesting character). He's a being who may have more than his superficial qualities suggest—the Voyager version, I suppose, of Data from TNG.

Janeway and Paris learn the planet's impending destruction will be the result of the people's own use of unstable power sources, possibly due to some activists who know the dangers of the technology and plan to sabotage a power plant to make a point. The story changes direction when Janeway realizes that their very presence may be what causes the disaster. This leads her to decide she has to stop the activists from performing their dastardly deed. This is where the story finally picks up (though too late) as Janeway plays the heroine by following the bad guys into the power plant, where she pulls a gun and an all-business attitude on them.

But the conclusion is far too ambiguous. It turns out that the crew's rescue attempt through time causes the explosion, and suddenly the scene takes us back in time (or forward, from Janeway's point of view) to before the Voyager even encounters the subspace shockwave. The time manipulations are reminiscent of "Cause and Effect," but this conclusion doesn't offer any explanations to the questions it raises. (Most of all, why does Kes come to the bridge to avert the crew from restarting the same time loop again?) The ending completely ignores its paradox without any offer of credibility.

Weighing down the sci-fi element is the fact that the planet's residents are way too human, making the Delta Quadrant that much less fascinating. Unfortunately, plot requirements require it, which is another reason why this story is a bad move this early in the series. And frankly, Chattaway's score here is dreadful, particularly during the obligatory gunfight scene. It owes more to fingernails on a chalkboard than notes on a page.

Here's hoping Voyager does something genuinely new next week.

Previous episode: Parallax
Next episode: Phage

Season Index

19 comments on this review

Mal - Fri, Oct 16, 2009 - 12:42pm (USA Central)
I remember vividly loving Season 4's Year of Hell, but hating - totally hating - the "Reset Button," which by the end of VOY, was perhaps its worst offending cliche. What I had forgotten was just how early in the show the writers started leaning on that crutch.

This is only the third episode! Isn't it vital at this point to build UP the characters? Instead, what little character development occurred was all wiped away like so many other potential (but sadly, reset) twists and turns throughout VOY's seven years. What a shame. What a total waste.

P.S. Kes is no Guinan. And Time and Again is no Yesterday's Enterprise.
OddJohn - Tue, Dec 1, 2009 - 1:45pm (USA Central)
I'm surprised you didn't go more into Janeway's bizarre Prime Directive fundamentalism in this episode. Janeway uses the Prime Directive as a reason to not save this episode's SOTW from extinction. But considering the Voyager is so far from Federation HQ and the Prime Directive has been routinely skirted around by previous captains with little consequence, it's hard to not see Janeway's behavior here as borderline psychopathic. Kirk wouldn't have given a damn about the PD in this situation. Picard would have expressed reservations but found a way to save the species anyway. Janeway just condemns them to death without a second thought.

Her reasoning (beyond just 'the PD says so')? That it's impossible to know what consequence saving them would have. Really!? According to that logic, it's immoral to save ANYONE from ANYTHING! After all, you never know who will end up giving birth to the next Hitler after you save them. Simply preposterous.
Tim - Sat, Jun 26, 2010 - 11:08pm (USA Central)
This episode is pretty lame. Especially considering its the third episode of the series and its the second episode on a row to focus on time travel.

But there is a scene between Kes, Neelix and the Doctor that is absolute gold. The doctor has two classic lines:

"Your brain...is not on file!"

...and...

"Please advise the highest ranking crew member who is not...missing...to contact me at once"
navamske - Sat, Sep 25, 2010 - 8:14am (USA Central)
@OddJohn

"Janeway's . . . Prime Directive fundamentalism"

That, sir, is brilliant.
navamske - Sat, Sep 25, 2010 - 8:18am (USA Central)
@Tim

"Your brain...is not on file!"

To which Neelix could have responded, "Brain and brain, what is brain?"

Neelix: hands-down, the most annoying character in any Star Trek incarnation. Just sayin'.
navamske - Tue, Nov 2, 2010 - 7:43pm (USA Central)
Not only do the denizens of the planet look completely human, they also use human idioms like "appeared out of thin air." Amazing.
Destructor - Mon, Feb 21, 2011 - 6:27pm (USA Central)
I've been rewatching Voyager for a second time with my girlfriend and she is loving it- because she doesn't care about plot. She cares about the characters, and I think this episode, while entirely useless because it resets at the end, does actually get into the characters. And I think that might just be the key to enjoying Voyager this second time around.
Carbetarian - Tue, Apr 5, 2011 - 11:28pm (USA Central)
@destructor I totally agree. I'm rewatching Voyager for the first time since it was originally on the air and, while I think the plots are WAY lamer than I remember them being, I genuinely care about this crew. The cast had good chemistry and that is what saves the show from being a total bore for me.

This episode sucked though. @oddjohn is right about Janeway's insane prime directive fundamentalism. That was ridiculous. I won't restate everyone else's all too apt complaints. But, I agree with everything that's already been said.

Is it just me, or does Neelix kind of look like Tony the Tiger crossed with a leprechan? I'm still wondering who thought he was going to be the new breakout alien of the show. Remember that scene in caretaker where he was in a bathtub?

*shudders*

That will haunt my nightmares forever.
Nathan - Thu, Oct 27, 2011 - 1:18pm (USA Central)
"Picard would have expressed reservations but found a way to save the species anyway."

Really? How about 7th season episode "Homeward" with Worf's (human) brother? Picard is willing to let the entire planet die from 'atmospheric dissipation'.

Personally, I think total destruction of an isolated society is a place where the Prime Directive should not apply. Most of the arguments for the PD don't apply when you're dealing with the annihilation of an entire civilization that has no contact with any others.
charlie - Thu, Dec 29, 2011 - 6:19am (USA Central)
Nathan,
"Homeward" was just a fluke, just like giving Spock a brother in Star Trek V was a fluke. "Time and Again," however, proved the norm for Voyager.
Shane - Fri, Oct 5, 2012 - 1:23am (USA Central)
Wow Tuvok was an annoying prick in this episode. The whole way through he would spout disdain for the other crew member's thoughts and ideas and had nothing to contribute himself.

An early sign that most of the writers for Voyager and Enterprise could never script the Vulcans as anything more than conceited a-holes with pointed ears.
Shane - Fri, Oct 5, 2012 - 1:28am (USA Central)
Oh wait, nevermind, none of it actually happened! Reset button!
mike - Thu, Jun 6, 2013 - 5:21am (USA Central)
1.5 stars at most. It had every Star Trek cliché in the writer's guide: prime directive, technobabble gone wild,time travel paradoxes and an alien culture where everyone inexplicably dresses alike. By the time this thing as third quarters through I just didn't care. A planet with people this irritating is better off scorched beyond recognition.
inline79 - Fri, Jul 19, 2013 - 4:50pm (USA Central)
While writing this script, someone somewhere noted that the most popular Star Trek episodes deal with paradoxes and time travel ("Relics", "All Good Things"... just to name two). So is the entire Voyager first season going to be time travel? We are not that gullible.

Two time travel stories in a row is bad storytelling. But what really irks me is they don't even make the effort to explain the paradox at the end, or give any of the characters any growth out of it. Well, except Tuvok, who is now established as having nobody to tell him to "Shut up".

Clearly there were set and make-up budget constraints but, unlike many of the above, I actually enjoyed this episode more than Parallax. It should get an extra half star from Parallax's 2.5. It is an entertaining plot. It is an interesting premise of "do you warn them or not? and even if you do, will they believe you?". We do see some of the Paris / Janeway relationship, and we get more of a look at our Bad Captain's decision making. So we, the viewers, get insight into the characters without them gaining anything. That's a uniquely sci-fi story element that I hope will get filled some time in the next 170+ episodes...
Caine - Wed, Oct 9, 2013 - 3:06pm (USA Central)
".. Tuvok, who is now established as having nobody to tell him to "shut up". "

Hehe - brilliant, that actually made me laugh out loud :)

About the episode: extremely boring! Next, please!
Elizabeth - Mon, Dec 30, 2013 - 5:52am (USA Central)
I didn't mind watching the episode, there were a few entertaining moments. However, I couldn't get past the fact that the aliens are identical to humans. And the reset button is really annoying! I remember as a little girl, watching 'Dallas' with my parents (apparently they thought that was appropriate viewing for an 8yo) and seeing the scene where JR's death was all a dream. I thought it was the laziest plot twist ever and that the writers should be fired. Lame!
K'Elvis - Wed, Feb 12, 2014 - 11:34am (USA Central)
Janeway says that "as a rule", the Federation doesn't deal with pre-warp species. That doesn't mean they never do so, it's just a general policy, there might be any number of circumstances where they would deal with pre-warp species. But this is different than "Homeward", in that episode, it would have been a radical intervention to save them, packing a vestige of a primitive society and relocating them on another planet. The society in this episode is at least on par with 21st century Earth. Saving them wouldn't involve a radical intervention, it would simply involve giving them a warning.

Janeway telling Tom not to intervene and Chakotay admonishing his fellow Maquis not to mutiny seem like the same thing: if there is action to be taken, they will take it themselves. If Voyager will intervene, Janeway will make the call; if there is to be a mutiny, Chakotay will make the call.
Ric - Tue, Mar 4, 2014 - 12:10am (USA Central)
@K'Elvis Just a general policy? You are talking about the Prime Directive, or god sake. Maybe has it name because it is a unimportant one that be put aside in "any number of circumstances"...
Tricia - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 - 5:04am (USA Central)
Isn't the universal translator built into the com badges? How does Janeway and Paris keep talking to the aliens after the com badges are taken? Apparently the aliens not only look exactly like humans, but they speak English. (The universal translator doesn't make sense anyway, but that's a different discussion).

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2014, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer