Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Future's End, Part I"


Air date: 11/6/1996
Written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I won't sacrifice this ship and crew based on a ten-second conversation. I need proof!" — Janeway, displaying prudence

Nutshell: A refreshing, entertaining hour. Rather effectively plotted and paced. In short, a good setup.

I'll admit that, months ago, when I first heard about the premise for "Future's End" I wasn't exactly enthused about it. It sounded like a desperate stab by the Voyager writers—a rehash of the Star Trek IV concept of putting Trekkian characters in a contemporary time period and milking it for all the ideals contrasting it's worth.

Fortunately, I got something I wasn't expecting—a solidly written, fast-paced, plot-driven episode characterized by some memorable sequences.

All that plus a refreshing, interesting array of time travel machinations.

Let me also admit this: I'm a sucker for time travel plots when they dare to get as crazy as "Future's End" does. On my list of favorite movies is the gleefully entertaining Back to the Future Part II. That film was a lot of fun because the characters were constantly zipping in and out of different time periods, creating and resolving problems based on the reliable sci-fi idea of the time paradox. "Future's End," similarly, also piles paradoxes onto the plot with little regard for linear logic or, for that matter, even common sense. I think that's the point, and the reason why time travel stories are effective—they're based on a reality that can't possibly be understood because, as Captain Braxton (Allan G. Royal) of the 29th century notes, "A is to B is to C is to A." (Quick aside: Between this two-parter, DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations," and the rapidly approaching First Contact, it would seem that if there's one thing there's plenty of, it's time travel.)

As the show begins, Voyager is in its usual routine, traveling through the Delta Quadrant. Suddenly a rift opens and a Federation ship emerges. The ship isn't just a ship, but a time ship from the 29th century. The captain is a sort of temporal police officer. He has traveled from the future to destroy Voyager. You see, Voyager is somehow responsible for a temporal explosion that destroys Earth's solar system in the 29th century, killing billions of people. Braxton frantically explains why he has arrived and why he must destroy Voyager. When Janeway demands further explanation and proof, Braxton simply responds, "No time!" and promptly opens fire. Amusingly ironic.

Voyager resists Braxton's weapons with some clever technobabble that inhibits his weapons, and the result is an accident that sends Braxton and the Voyager back to 20th century Earth. Under plot details that I refuse to go into here, the Voyager crew tracks Braxton to Los Angeles (the year, naturally, is 1996). After disguising their ship in orbit and briefly studying the contemporary culture, Janeway and the crew beam down in contemporary clothes to find Braxton.

They find him, but he has aged. As it happens the accident caused him to arrive nearly thirty years earlier, when he crash-landed his time ship somewhere in the High Sierras. He beamed out just before the crash, but before he could retrieve his time ship someone else did: a 20th century man (and now a computer company CEO) named Henry Starling (Ed Begley, Jr.). It's about here where we get the explanation of how A causes B causes C causes A. The story wisely acknowledges the paradox and then doesn't give it a second thought, which is a prudent move under the circumstances. As Braxton lays the plot down for Janeway and for us, we see what this aged character out of place has become: a crazed, raving old lunatic whose single, energetic scene proves very entertaining.

The rest of the episode follows the characters around as they try to track down Henry Starling in L.A. Further plot twists bring a young woman named Raine Robinson (Sarah Silverman) into the picture, whose connections with Starling put her life in jeopardy and could supply Tuvok and Paris with answers. Meanwhile Janeway and Chakotay break into Starling's office and find the stolen time ship, but are captured by Starling and his array of 29th century technology before they can do anything.

One amusing notion here is that the 20th century "computer revolution" shouldn't have happened at all—or maybe it should've always happened. I sure don't know; it's yet another paradox stacked into the deck. Apparently Starling has been responsible for "inventing" all new computer technology for the past several decades, but his technology is all based on stolen information from the future. But how can that future exist without the past having created it? As Janeway puts it, "It all gives me a headache." Paradoxes are fun. Implausible but fun.

In fact, the key to this entire episode is fun. It has a better sense of fun than any Voyager episode I can recall since "Projections." (What else can you say about an episode that ends with the Voyager, zipping across the sky, caught on home video?) The material is not very deep, but I really don't care. It's very well crafted, with plot manipulations that actually make sense. That's important, because this show rides completely on its plot. Plot-driven shows can become tedious or plagued with holes if not deftly written. But the biggest thing "Future's End, Part I" has going for it is its tight, taut, precise plotting. The events follow plausibly from A to B to C, and all the parts fit neatly into place; the story constantly demonstrates that it knows not only what is happening but why events follow from other events.

Pacing is also a strength here. The show does not waste time on events that don't progress the narrative—and every scene here zips along and proves entertaining on a story level. Case in point: Janeway and the crew are beamed down to L.A. by the end of the first act; the story knows where it wants to go and goes there, without wasting time on meaningless dialog or action.

The characterizations aren't nearly as urgent as the plot workings here, but they're relevant, and I'll quickly mention a few of them:

  • Ed Begley, Jr. makes an effective villain—a conniving creep with a look on his face like he's better than everyone else. Plus he's smarter than he initially appears (always a good quality for a bad guy), as shown by his ability to use Braxton's 29th century technology against the Voyager.
  • Sarah Silverman as Raine Robinson did not impress me. Sure, she's cute and all, but her unconvincing line delivery in scenes with Tuvok and Paris became very annoying very fast.
  • The teaming of the various Voyager characters worked quite well. Janeway and Chakotay showed very promising signs of camaraderie (did I even hear him call her "Kathryn"?). Tuvok and Paris worked well together, as did Kim and Torres back on board the Voyager. Nice work.

This show is merely setup, but it's good setup. It swiftly and effectively establishes and fleshes out all the important characters and presents the problems with calm precision. Hopefully the second half can just as skillfully resolve the problems that this half has presented.

Previous episode: Sacred Ground
Next episode: Future's End, Part II

Season Index

16 comments on this review

AJ Koravkrian - Sat, Nov 10, 2007 - 11:31pm (USA Central)
"You stay where you are....quasi Cardassian totalitarian!!" -Braxton to a 20th century policeman.
Jay - Sat, Aug 1, 2009 - 2:18pm (USA Central)
What stood out in this episode is the concept that, in the 29th century, we are to trust these humans with being the caretakers of the timeline, and they actually sent someone back to destroy an entire vessel and its crew, but then to discover...oops, we were wrong, it isn't Voyager's fault.

Color me less than confident in the caretakers of the future.
navamske - Wed, Aug 12, 2009 - 7:22pm (USA Central)
Great dialogue:

"I've got a starship in orbit that could destroy this building."
(Chortling) "And you with it!"
"If necessary."
"Captain -- you've got some cojones."
AJ Krovarkrian - Sat, Sep 12, 2009 - 11:42pm (USA Central)
My favorite dialog-

Janeway: "She could be my great-great-great-great great grandmother".
Chakotay: "She does have your legs."

um, sure. that's not inappropriate, just the usual way they talk.
Derek - Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - 8:04am (USA Central)
Just watched this for the first time, not sure how I missed it way back when. I've only ever known as "the one I haven't seen where they go to the 90s and Doc gets his mobile emitter." Pretty fun episode, but it's even more annoying than usual hearing the "sonic wallpaper" music in 20th century scenes like the teaser. Duuuuuum, duuuuuum, duuuuum "Far out!"

Also, I laughed out loud watching Starling on his computer near the end; he was just mashing asdf;lkajsdf;lkajsd;fklj then hitting enter. His 29th century technology is so advanced it only needs the home row!
Nic - Thu, Feb 4, 2010 - 3:20pm (USA Central)
I can't resist adding more dialogue:

RAIN: What the hell did you do to my computer? It is screwed up! The hard drive is wiped!
PARIS: I don't have time to explain.
RAIN: Who are you people and [points to Tuvok] what is that thing in your pants?
Firestone - Tue, Jun 1, 2010 - 12:33pm (USA Central)
While we're at it:

Paris to Rain: Your curves don't look so right.

These writers must have been in a particularly sexual mood...
Matthias - Sun, Aug 28, 2011 - 4:32am (USA Central)
Gangsta ass Tuvok, illest emcee in two quadrants.
Jay - Sat, Sep 3, 2011 - 2:48pm (USA Central)
@ all the people quoting stuff...it must be the trip to contemporary Earth that does i t. In STIV, the characters said stuff (like "double dumbass on you" for example) that they'd never otherwise say...
Shane - Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - 5:56am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode immensely when it first aired. Time travel was always fun (even though now I tend dislike it because of the massive flaws in logic often brought about). I've also been to the Santa Monica pier and it's fun seeing the sites on the show. There's plenty of fun stuff. Plenty of flaws. At the very least it's one of Voyager's more memorable two-parters.
T'Paul - Mon, Sep 9, 2013 - 10:48am (USA Central)
Before commenting on the ep., I'd like to point out the number of 3.5s Jammer gives Voyager... seems a wee bit unfair to hold off just half a point for otherwise excellent episodes... especially when in his reviews for these 3.5 episodes Jammer is usually fairly generous in his praise.
Jay - Sat, Sep 28, 2013 - 9:32am (USA Central)
I thought it was rather absurd (and frankly, insulting to the audience) that we needed the explicit screenshot of Starling's tattoo to be "informed" that this was the same guy that said "Far Out" in the teaser.
Caine - Mon, Oct 21, 2013 - 4:18pm (USA Central)
I ... HATE ... time travel episodes ...

Time paradoxes never end up making any sense at all, slapping you in the face with glaring holes in the logic.

That said, I was entertained by this pretty charming, somewhat well paced episode.

The two best things about these two episodes, to me, were:

1) The dialogue - lots of fun one-liners!

2) Sarah Silverman as Rain Robinson. Her charisma and attitude really lit up the screen! Her on-screen chemistry with Paris worked realy well, as far as I'm concerned.
Jons - Tue, Nov 26, 2013 - 1:26pm (USA Central)
Like Caine, I hate time travel episodes and storylines, which indeed never make any sense and always end up being illogical.

However I never saw this when it aired, on account of my having been just 7 at the sime, so I found it rather hilarious. I felt almost closer to Janeway and the rest of the crew, watching the 1990's and their understanding of technology. And I don't mean (just) the characters in the episode - I mean the people who wrote it in the first place. The concept that downloading something (here called mistakenly "upload" because you know... the ship is up!!) causes it to flash on screen is really funny. As is the suggestion that anyone like Sterling could somehow override security codes etc. of a ship 4 centuries older than he is is also hilarious. Can you imagine Henry the VIII suddenly hacking into an ipad? That makes absolutely no sense.

But it was (is) a very entertaining episode.
Vylora - Sun, Aug 24, 2014 - 8:25pm (USA Central)
The beginning of the episode is pure horseshit. Apparently going back in time to destroy a spaceship lost in the Delta Quadrant is the way the writers would have the 29th century Federation handle things. Forget any other options. Plus isn't 1996 around when the Eugenics Wars was supposed to be taking place? I hardly doubt that life during something that major would be business as usual. Maybe it would be in some places, but there's not even a mention of it.

Despite those major blunders, this is, admittedly, quite an enjoyable episode that shows more of Voyager's adventurous comedic side that it does just as well as in the other series. The characterizations are spot-on and the dialogue filled with great quips and one-liners. The final scenes with Voyager in the night sky were gorgeous and a fantastic setup ending. An excellent guest cast drives it all home.

Could've been great if the setup wasn't dismal and insulting. However, it also shows what can go right when given a little bit of thought. A bit on the fence with this one, but, I will give it the benefit of the doubt based on what Voyager as a series has taught me to expect from it.

3 stars.
Jack - Thu, Oct 2, 2014 - 10:18am (USA Central)
The *how can the future computer technology exist without the past having created it* "paradox" can be dismissed if you consider that the 24th century computer technology was largely the doing of a Federation race other than humans. If, say, it's the Vulcans that were at the forefront of such technology (remember that fancy Kir'Shara in Season4 ENT that would date back to Earth's 4th century), then 20th century Earth needn't have much to do with it.

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