Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Future's End, Part II"


Air date: 11/13/1996
Written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Divine intervention is unlikely." — Doc

Nutshell: Silly fun, but rather uneven. Not the skillfully plotted wrap-up I had hoped for.

Very rarely, it seems, does the second part of a Trek two-parter live up to the first. Such is the case with "Future's End, Part II," which has plenty of good moments but only adds up to an okay overall show. This half of the episode is, in a word, "entertaining," but it doesn't nearly display the even-handed movie-like effectiveness that part one did.

There are some amusing gags in this wrap-up, but that's about all they are—gags that prove enjoyable enough to get a few grins but add up to relatively little. That's too bad. "Future's End I" had a solid, efficient story structure, and it seemed the writers knew exactly where they wanted to go with part two. "Future's End II," however, merely delivers us a host of partly disjointed events that border on non sequitur. If the key word to the first half was "orderly," then the key word to the second half is "uneven."

Like most story resolutions, the outcome is hardly in doubt. Will the Voyager crew stop Henry Starling from causing the temporal explosion that will destroy Earth in the 29th century? Will Voyager inevitably wind up back in the 24th century Delta Quadrant? Is water wet? Admittedly, those aren't very fair questions since we know the answers, but the problem with the answers "Future's End II" supplies us is in the "how," not the "what."

This episode starts off just fine, as Starling begins interrogating Doc (after having "kidnapped" his program in part one) for information about Janeway's plans. Featured here—and long overdue—is a line actually acknowledging Doc's memory loss from "The Swarm." While I'm glad they finally mentioned it I'm still pretty irritated that this entire issue has been reduced to one mere line of dialog. Now I'm beginning to wonder why they even bothered at all. If I knew they would follow up on it later I might feel better, but Voyager continues to sorely disappoint in the show-to-show development department.

But I digress. Starling decides that now that Voyager has discovered him, he has to move fast. Using his 29th century technology, Starling has Doc wear a portable holographic device that allows him to be projected anywhere—including outside—so that Starling can hold him hostage when dealing with Tom and Raine. (If that sounds weird just read it once again and trust me.) In addition, Starling fools the Voyager crew at almost every turn. At one point Janeway actually has Starling locked behind a force field on board the Voyager—but he uses his own transporter and escapes. At another point, Tom and Raine follow a semi-truck that they think is carrying the time ship all the way into the desert—but it's all a trick, faked by Starling and his gadgets.

This is probably the most interesting aspect of the show—the fact that no matter what the Voyager crew does, Starling always seems to have another card up his sleeve—another surprise waiting to be unveiled. There's something to be said for the way the writers reveal Starling as a step ahead of the game—more than we or the Voyager crew expect. True, maybe it's all because he has the technological advantage, but that's not the point. It adds an extra element to the conflict, which attempts to keep things interesting.

This show is every bit as plot-driven as part one was. Unfortunately, the events don't flow nearly as nicely from one scene to the next. One stretch includes the unnecessary need for Starling to "get rid of" Raine (hence the botched hostage negotiation). If he's ready to go back to the future (or whatever) and the Voyager is already onto his plan, why does he even need to care about Raine?

I'll admit that's fairly minor. What is not minor, however, and really hurts the flow of the story is a pointless B-plot in which Torres and Chakotay crash-land their shuttle and are held captive by a militia of anti-establishment fanatics. What does this have to do with anything? As far as I can tell, Torres and Chakotay are captured merely so they can be rescued by Doc and Tuvok several scenes later. But in the meantime this entire idea is nothing more than a distracting digression used to pad out the episode. It's almost as if the writers ran out of material relevant to the main plot and came up with this instead.

And the main plot itself is a little overly stocked with action movie cliches. Some sequences appear to be paying homage (or satire or something) to those bad B action movies that are always filmed in and around L.A. Fine and dandy, but I still want to know what happened to the smart, efficient story of part one. Sure, some of these cliches are amusing with a twist—like the idea of a car chase with an exchange of phaser-fire. But others tend to push it—like one where Tom and Raine are in a van with an engine that conveniently dies and then refuses to start, just as the thug comes barreling down the road toward them going 50 miles an hour in a semi-truck. (I did, on the other hand, enjoy the shuttle coming out of nowhere to play deus ex machina by phasering the semi cab to pieces). And the obligatory and completely forced "Raine and Tom kiss after they barely escape death" is worth several demerits if you ask me. How many action movies has this been recycled from? Four or five hundred? These are the kind of forays into the obvious I feared when I heard Jeri Taylor's allusions to "contemporary settings" and "car chases" several months ago. (I did, however, enjoy the rather nifty sight of Starling ramming the time ship through the top floor of his own skyscraper—that was cool.)

While I don't have any major objections to the ending, it just wasn't as interesting as it could've been. I guess the main complaint I have is that after two complete episodes of setup I had hoped that averting a temporal disaster wouldn't come down to something as crude as blowing Starling and his stolen time ship to bits with a photon torpedo. (Besides, if Starling is so smart, why didn't he have his shields up?) And once the disaster is averted, along comes Captain Braxton again, who has appeared from the future to return Voyager to the 24th century where it belongs.

And when "Future's End" began toying with paradoxes this time around, my fun turned into confusion. Even though I liked part one's idea of a time loop with no discernible beginning or end, I was a tad perplexed here when Braxton showed up again, apparently now having been spared all effects of the time line manipulations from part one. (Does that mean the old Braxton on Earth simply vanished like Marty McFly in Back to the Future?) Hey, whatever. The idea of a "Temporal Prime Directive" preventing Braxton from sending Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant seemed sensible enough, and proved ironic considering how many times the conventional Prime Directive tends to pop its head up on Voyager.

Still, one thing bugs me: If people in the 29th century can truly monitor time, then why didn't Braxton just figure out what was going on and fix it in the first place? I can buy that he traced Voyager's involvement in the destruction of Earth in part one, but the idea of "time sensors" brings up a host of troubling new implausibilities—and I'm not willing to reach quite that far into the bag of tricks. If time can be so easily manipulated, then history means nothing, and I don't think I like the implications of that.

I also wonder about how "ethical" it is for Doc to keep the portable holo-emitter since it really belongs in the 29th century. While I like the idea of Doc finally getting out of sickbay, I don't see why the writers didn't just do it under the original intent of Torres and Harry's rigged holo-emitters toyed with in "Projections" and "Persistence of Vision."

Ah, but who cares? I'm probably a fool for even attempting to scrutinize the ridiculous time games presented in "Future's End." It's all in silly fun. By pure plot structure (which is about all we have to go on here, really), the first half is much more engaging than this half is—which is probably the only point I really want to stress here. Average these two shows together and you'll come up with a three-star rating. Sounds about right to me.

Previous episode: Future's End, Part I
Next episode: Warlord

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31 comments on this review

Bob - Tue, Feb 19, 2008 - 4:09pm (USA Central)
How the heck did Harry get Hobo Braxton's schematic when transporters were down?!
Bob - Tue, Feb 19, 2008 - 4:27pm (USA Central)
Oh yeah, and it sure was fun making fun of those silly militia guys who thought that the government was moving towards fascism, wasn't it? The '90s were a hoot! Boy, this episode really shows its age!!
Bob - Tue, Feb 19, 2008 - 5:04pm (USA Central)
LOL, after dissing Tom for saying "groovy" in part one, Rain calls Tuvok a "Freakasaurus". Also, wouldn't the militia guy's shotgun damage the Holodoc's mobile emitter? Oh, and hell the heck did Starling's minion turn that 18-wheeler around so quickly - and with a flat tire!! Also, I think that the person who made the call not to make Rain a permanent character deserves a medal of some sort. FINALLY, this episode made it clear that a "temporal integrity commission" exists in the 29th century that intervenes whenever something gets mucked up in the timeline. WHERE WERE THEY IN "ENDGAME"?? Now, thanks to Janeway violating the Temporal Prime Directive, the Federation has transphasic torpedoes, "deploy armor", and that phaser and cloaking technology that they never showed us! (Janeway should have been thrown in prison for violating the TPD, but she got a promotion!) Also, why didn't Captain Braxton make the holodoc give up his 29th century contraband? Did he also take the "20%" of Voyager's computer files off the Chronowerks mainframe and put it back into Voyager? Ok, I'm done, I promise.
Dirk Hartmann - Tue, Apr 8, 2008 - 1:58pm (USA Central)
I absolutely disliked the concept that it's already settled that there will be a "federation" in the 29th century and that they master time travel at will. Sorta takes out the tension of many things ... I have to admit that I still liked those 90 minutes on a pure "fun level", though.
Nic - Sun, Oct 18, 2009 - 8:35am (USA Central)
I'm also glad the Doctor acknowledged his memory loss. I'll have you notice that "Future's End" was filmed right after "The Swarm" (regardless of the aired order) so it makes more sense to watch the episodes in production order for that reason.
Paul - Wed, Mar 10, 2010 - 6:40pm (USA Central)
Shouldn't voyager have automatically returned to the 24th century since the past/future was altered by them? If the initial meeting with Braxon never happened then why would they be in Earth orbit?
Latex Zebra - Mon, Apr 19, 2010 - 8:01am (USA Central)
Fun episode but talk about put yourself in a corner with the invention of the 'Temporal Integrity Commission' who basically should have put a stop to all this Time Travel shenanigans a long time ago.
Nic - Tue, Apr 20, 2010 - 2:45pm (USA Central)
You are somewhat right, Paul. This episode presents a different interpretation of temporal causality than "Time & Again" did. In both cases, there is a temporal paradox "loop" (A leads to B leads to C leads to A). In "Time & Again" everything was erased once the loop was averted, but here the crew retains their memories, the Doc's emitter, and their position in the space-time continuum.
navamske - Mon, Aug 16, 2010 - 8:59pm (USA Central)
In "The 37's" the crew specifically made sure to have only human crew members (or Kes, who "can easily be made to look human") present when they wake up Amelia Earhart and the others. They should have taken the same care here, instead of sending a Klingon-foreheaded woman to Earth. Or the Doctor could have surgically altered Torres, the way Dr. Crusher put Silly Putty on Paul Sorvino's nose in "Homeward."
navamske - Mon, Aug 16, 2010 - 9:10pm (USA Central)
Obviously the writers didn't know at this point the specific manner in which the series would end, other than "Yeah, they'll get home." But knowing what we know now -- and given what Captain Braxton surely knew from his history -- it would have been cool if his insistence on returning Voyager to the Delta Quadrant had been based not on a vague "Sorry, Temporal Prime Directive" but on a more specific "You have important work to complete in the Delta Quadrant" (i.e., the "crippling blow" they dealt to the Borg on their way home).
navamske - Fri, Oct 1, 2010 - 5:00pm (USA Central)

"Also, I think that the person who made the call not to make Rain a permanent character deserves a medal of some sort."

Was something like that actually under consideration? What, were they going to bring her back with them, a la Gillian Taylor? That would have been lame, and not only because Sarah Silverman is so annoying.
Jeff - Tue, Jan 18, 2011 - 12:45pm (USA Central)
I just wonder why Janeway didn't initiate time warp by slingshotting around the sun. It worked for Kirk and co. several times. Janeway could've had the crew home that much sooner. Oh well.
Nathan - Tue, Nov 1, 2011 - 12:11am (USA Central)
You don't even need to slingshot around the sun. Just go at almost-light speeds (using non-warp drive, of course) and relativity takes care of the rest.

As for the temporal paradoxes, I assumed that they changed nothing - the piece of Voyager found in the 29th century was, of course, the torpedo. Braxton at the end could have simply been earlier in his life than when he encountered Voyager in the Delta Quadrant. I'm pretty sure I remember more episodes with Braxton, so perhaps some of this is dealt with then.
Justin - Sun, Mar 25, 2012 - 2:00pm (USA Central)
Starling was such a well conceived villain, it's a shame he couldn't have become a recurring one.
Justin - Sun, Mar 25, 2012 - 6:42pm (USA Central)
I know some people can't stand Sarah Silverman and I certainly understand why. But I like her. She's a good egg, she CAN be funny, and yes, she's got that adorable smile. Like her or not, though, the Raine character got short shrifted. Here comes Tom Paris who represents everything she's ever dreamed of - he's smart, attractive, mysterious, and shares not only her interest in science and astronomy, but her taste in pop culture as well. They have an intellectual bond and a shared attraction. And not only do they both love B-movies, but he's suddenly thrown her into the middle of one. Complete with lasers and time travel.

What I'm saying is she has 2 different motivations to do more than just shrug and say "your space ship's waiting" at the end. If the writer's really wanted to take a risk she could have stowed away on the shuttle somehow. An even bigger risk would have been Tom actually hiding her and dealing with Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok's fallout later.

OK, so it's far fetched and goofy, but anything's better than Neelix, right?
mike - Sat, Apr 27, 2013 - 7:15pm (USA Central)
I'm sorry but I really don't much enjoy these time travel back to Earth stories in any Star Trek series. The only exception is City on the Edge of Forever from TOS. The reason that episode is good -- and that's an understatement -- is because it treated the past seriously. Every episode since has just been an excuse to play us for cheap grins and giggles. I found this no different.
navamske - Tue, May 28, 2013 - 6:58pm (USA Central)
I just watched this again. When Torres and Chuckles are flying around with Starling in their transporter buffer, Harry says, "We're close enough to use the short-range transporter," and so they do, beaming Starling to Voyager. Why not beam up Torres and Chuckles too, let the shuttle crash, and then return later to destroy or retrieve it? They could have at least said, "Oops, the short-range transporter crapped out after we beamed up Starling. Bummer."
Lt. Yarko - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 12:18am (USA Central)
>> I just wonder why Janeway didn't initiate time warp by slingshotting around the sun.

That would have ended the series. But, yeah. I kept thinking the same thing. You'd think the writers would have done something to address that option.
Jay - Sat, Sep 28, 2013 - 10:25am (USA Central)
I have the same issue here as I had with "Realm of Fear" from TNGS6...that a person in mid-transport can carry out activities. There, they had Barclay being able to "See" , and later, "grab" something while being transported, and here Starling is able to combat his transport while he is dematerialized...it's all completely absurd.
Caine - Mon, Oct 21, 2013 - 4:41pm (USA Central)
As I mentioned in my comment on the first part of this two-parter:
I ... HATE ... time travel episodes!

You guys have amply reminded me WHY I hate them - there's just no end to the things that end up make no sense ...

The mother of all time travel problems in Trek presents itself for the first time (I think?) in this two-parter: if there's a Temporal Prime Directive in the 29th cetury, why the heck haven't we seen it being enforced during all the crazy stuff happening throughout the dozens and dozens of Trek time travel episodes (the series Enterprise not really withstanding, since the Time Travel "Cops" are an integral par of that series)?

Why, oh why, can't the writers think about ridiculously obvious stuff like this before sending a script to the printers? "Oh, it doesn't really matter if it all makes sense, as long as we're having fun watching it!"

Madness? This ... is ... STAR TREK!
K'Elvis - Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - 7:23am (USA Central)
What they should have done was to find a place that would remain undisturbed into the 24th century. Then they all go into suspended animation - they've had that technology since the time of Khan. When enough time has elapsed, they wake up and head back to Earth.
Corey - Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - 8:25pm (USA Central)
The first episode was excellent, so it's all the more painful to see how poorly written and directed the second parter was. It's just a collection of badly written, awkwardly connected sequences.
Ric - Thu, Apr 3, 2014 - 1:34am (USA Central)
I can't understand how Jammer thinks that Starling being always one step ahead is upside of the episode. I found it to be really irritating. Ok, I know he had a lot of time to learn and play around with the 29th century technology and thus, he has a lot of tricks to play.

But I think the episode just overplays it. Downloading the Doc is one thing, having him projected in a second is another. Silly silly. How easy he scapes from Voyager is also annoying.

I agree that the plot B was pointless and also badly executed. In the end, this second parter was a mess. Quite bad. But with decent ending.
kapages - Mon, Jun 16, 2014 - 11:24pm (USA Central)
K/Elvis that is an amazingly clever idea!
It would be great if it was adressed, only to be rejected with a reason "what if they find us, scan us somehow? it would pollute the timeline".

Of course, they would know where to hide, because they would in retrospect know which planet was not thoroughly checked in thei earth neighborhood.

HolographicAndrew - Sat, Aug 2, 2014 - 1:41pm (USA Central)
"I'm sorry but I really don't much enjoy these time travel back to Earth stories in any Star Trek series."

Totally agree with that. I love time travel episodes, just not these past-earth ones. And for some reason they kept making them two-parters.

The one thing I'll give to this one is, at least they didn't just happen to bump into historical figures like Time's Arrow.
Vylora - Sun, Aug 24, 2014 - 11:47pm (USA Central)
The second part played out here more or less as expected without offering little more in the way of ingenuity. Any sense of whimsy and adventure from the first part gives way to more Voyager-by-the-numbers plotting. The cat and mouse aspect where Starling seemed to be always one step ahead was entertaining, though, and most characterizations from the first part continued to be successful.

Enjoyable enough, but, ultimately underwhelming on follow-through.

2.5 stars.
navamske - Tue, Sep 2, 2014 - 9:03pm (USA Central)

"The one thing I'll give to this one is, at least they didn't just happen to bump into historical figures like Time's Arrow."

As we all know, ST:TWOK, ST:TSFS, and ST:TVH became a trilogy without the producers' intending that. I thought it was cool that they almost came full circle, because Khan was alive when the crew was looking for whales in 1986. Kirk could have said, "Hey, let's bump off Khan while we're here and none of this shit will ever have happened."
Robert - Wed, Sep 3, 2014 - 8:25am (USA Central)
@navamske - But if the Enterprise wasn't exiled on Vulcan when the probe reached Earth it would have been really, really bad. In some ways, Khan saved Earth!
navamske - Mon, Sep 15, 2014 - 7:28pm (USA Central)

"But if the Enterprise [crew] wasn't exiled on Vulcan when the probe reached Earth it would have been really, really bad. In some ways, Khan saved Earth!"

Yes, that's an excellent point, and it applies to the Jar Jar Abramsverse too. I can't see that there was anything about Nero's incursion to the past, creating an alternate timeline, that would keep the whale probe from showing up on schedule. It was a unique set of circumstances -- including Spock's reeducation after having died -- that allowed the crew to give the probe what it wanted, circumstances that aren't likely to occur in the new timeline. Old Spock should be telling Fake Spock, "You guys had better haul ass back to the twentieth century and pick up a couple of whales if you know what's good for you."
navamske - Tue, Sep 30, 2014 - 7:40pm (USA Central)
When Starling finally gets into the timeship near the end of Part II, he controls it with voice commands and it replies to him. It would have been cool and maybe even a little hilarious if Starfleet/Federation ships in the twenty-ninth century were still using the Majel Barrett voice.
ian - Thu, Oct 23, 2014 - 9:56pm (USA Central)
Okay, if they could scan time in the future why didn't Braxton know what he was doing before?
Later they bring him back and destroy continuity and let him remember!
Time travel episodes are really pushing the absurdity to new levels and should best be forgotton and left in the "past."
Of course, that will never happen as long as Trek continues...

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