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

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32 comments on this review

AJ Koravkrian
Sat, Nov 10, 2007, 11:31pm (UTC -5)
"You stay where you are....quasi Cardassian totalitarian!!" -Braxton to a 20th century policeman.
Sat, Aug 1, 2009, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Aug 12, 2009, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Sep 14, 2009, 8:04am (UTC -5)
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!
Thu, Feb 4, 2010, 3:20pm (UTC -5)
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?
Tue, Jun 1, 2010, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
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...
Sun, Aug 28, 2011, 4:32am (UTC -5)
Gangsta ass Tuvok, illest emcee in two quadrants.
Sat, Sep 3, 2011, 2:48pm (UTC -5)
@ all the people quoting 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...
Fri, Jun 28, 2013, 5:56am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Sep 9, 2013, 10:48am (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 9:32am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Oct 21, 2013, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Nov 26, 2013, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Aug 24, 2014, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Oct 2, 2014, 10:18am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Apr 20, 2015, 4:07pm (UTC -5)
I couldn't help but think how Paris and Tuvok came off like a gay couple when Tom laid into Sarah Silverman about obscure B-Movies and promptly shot her down. That and the shirt he was wearing.
Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 1:53am (UTC -5)
So much fun!
Sat, Jul 11, 2015, 12:55am (UTC -5)
"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."

I totally agree with Caine (and disagree with Jammer). She was great, and learning from Wikipedia that she impressed Braga so much he almost made her part of the crew, I was retroactively disappointed he decided against it.

"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."

Vylora, are you joking with this? Surely you're not expecting them to hold to the same timeline of events from the TOS when the actual time period arrives with no Eugenics Wars.
Wed, Aug 12, 2015, 4:47pm (UTC -5)
Get's on soap box.

Why doesn't Braxton just go back, say a year ago, and take Yoyager back to the Alpha Quadrant?

Steps down.

That said, you could say the same for any number of time travel episodes in all sci-fi, not trek.

Aside from that, this is a great episode. Enter Voyager's great 2 part episodes.

I benefited from Braxtons explanation :-)

I liked Sarah (midriff) Silverman here, too bad she turned into such a bitch.

Classic lines all throughout.

Great pace.

3.5 stars from me.
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 7:47am (UTC -5)
"Why doesn't Braxton just go back, say a year ago, and take Yoyager back to the Alpha Quadrant?"

Wouldn't he wreck the Delta Quadrant's history that way?
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 9:34am (UTC -5)
He's already ready to kill everyone onboard to save billions of lives and a solar system, is going back and just removing them worse?
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 9:39am (UTC -5)
As much as I hate to defend the logical integrity of a Voyager episode....

He's not altering the past because he doesn't like the future. That would be (as far as I can tell) a violation of the temporal prime directive.

"Your vessel is responsible for a disaster in my century. A temporal explosion that will destroy all Earth's solar system. I've come back in time to prevent that occurrence. My mission is your destruction. You must not resist."

He's going back in time to take out Voyager because they messed with the timeline somehow (from his perspective). I imagine going back to last week and preventing whatever they did last week and how it affected the Delta Quadrant is ALSO a violation of the temporal prime directive.
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 11:22am (UTC -5)
"I imagine going back to last week and preventing whatever they did last week and how it affected the Delta Quadrant is ALSO a violation of the temporal prime directive."

"Also" being the point.

Buy hey, we can nit-pick time travel episodes/paradox's to no end :-)

Thu, Nov 19, 2015, 4:24pm (UTC -5)
OMG... Rain? Really? ANd they had to get someone who talks like a highschool girl. RUINED both episodes. Unwatchable. Can't stand that woman.
Fri, Dec 18, 2015, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
Where was Khan?
Where was the Eugenics war?
wasn't that supposed to be happening in 1996?
Fri, Dec 18, 2015, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
@petulant - They should have just owned the weird error and had ST not take place in our timeline.
Thu, Dec 24, 2015, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
Loved this episode. But the thing I liked most, a silly thing really, was Starling's company name. "Chronowerx" = "Time Works" and the logo is the 29th century commbadge. Both an admission of where his company originated from. It was called out, which was nice, it was just there to be noticed.

On the Eugenics Wars; I think given that Khan was not American and he described himself as a "prince", the Eugenics Wars were mostly likely happening around the Middle East and probably wouldn't have affected day-to-day life in the west so much if indeed they were happening at this time. If it wasn't for the desktop model of Botany Bay in Rain's office (although it could be a prototype for the DY-100 not specifically Khan's ship), I'd rather date the Eugenics Wars as mid to late 21st century, possibly even coinciding, or even being the cause of, World War III. Some mention of it though, either being on going or what afffect it'd have on California when it does happen, would have been a nice tie in to TOS.

And seen as we're on with time travel, forget the 29th century people returning Voyager home, why can't they just slingshot around the sun as Kirk did several times while they're at Earth?
Diamond Dave
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 6:30am (UTC -5)
The Voyage Home without the laughs? Nah, that's probably a bit harsh. On the positive side we have a fast pace, some snappy dialogue, some good crew interactions and a strong guest cast. On the downside, the normal time travel plotholes and Starling hacking the Voyager better than Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day.

Crazy Braxton is a bit of a classic character though. 3 stars.
Fri, Apr 22, 2016, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
OMG, was that Janice from Friends :-)
Another one that I didn't get to see first time around. (Watched only part 1 so far) Always fun to see how the future crew reacts to (what was then) our current time.
But, haven't we seen all this before in the Star Trek movie when Kirk et al goes back in time to rescue the whales? Right down to the wacky local gal who gets swept up in events, loudly protesting along the way?
Mon, May 30, 2016, 3:48am (UTC -5)
Just came back to correct an error: it wasn't Maggie Wheeler (Janice from Friends) who was in this episode of Voyager but comedian Sarah Silverman. Ooops!
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
I can't believe everyone brings up all the time time travel episodes and comparisons and completely forgets the best time travel episode of all "City on the Edge of Forever". I remember watching that on TV as a kid and thinking it was the coolest episode ever. Still one of my top ten out of them all.
Kirk explains Spocks as obviously Chinese and his pointed ears the result of getting his head caught in a automatic rice picker when he was a child. :)

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