Voyager displays one more way how to be derivative of TNG by offering an exercise in not one, but two dependable Star Trek clichés—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.
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