“Time and Again”
Written by David Kemper and Michael Piller
Directed by Les Landau
Season 1, Episode 3
Production episode 104
Original air date: January 30, 1995
Captain’s log. Paris goes off duty, turning things over to the second-shift conn officer, and then inveigles Kim to go on a date with the Delaney sisters down in Stellar Cartography. Kim has a girlfriend back home, and he wants to stay faithful. Paris tells him he’s being a moron. He also lied to the Delaney sisters about something he did at the Academy, to Kim’s horror. Paris asks how they’re going to check, and I dunno, maybe use the library computer on their super-spiffy-keen spaceship?
A planet suffers a massive calamity near where Voyager is located. Neelix is unfamiliar with the world, and they head there to find that there was a major catastrophe, a release of polaric ion energy that atomized all life on the planet, leaving only nonorganic items.
Janeway, Tuvok, Torres, and Paris beam down to check the place out. Paris finds a stopped timepiece that indicates when the disaster takes place, if they can figure out what the numbers mean, anyhow.
On the ship, Kes wakes up from a seeming nightmare—she felt the people on the planet die telepathically. Neelix is skeptical, but he takes her to sickbay. However, the EMH doesn’t know how to diagnose her, as there are no medical records on file for Ocampa.
Paris has a flash of the square they’re standing in, only it’s daylight and there are people around. After a minute, he’s back with everyone else, but then both Janeway and Paris wind up in the square, seemingly in the past.
Torres determines that the polaric energy explosion sent out a subspace shockwave, some of which went back in time, opening subspace fissures into the past. Paris and Janeway fell through one such.
Paris finds the same timepiece he saw in the present, and bluffs his way into finding out how to read it. As best as he can determine, they’re a day in the past.
A little kid sees them appear out of nowhere and causes a fuss, but a local law-enforcement officer sends the kid on his way and apologizes to Janeway and Paris, who bluff their way through the conversation, later trading their uniforms for local clothes (which are apparently all yellows, reds, and oranges).
Paris wants to tell these people that they’re all going to die in a day, but Janeway refuses, because of the Prime Directive, thus showing that Voyager‘s writers have the same criminal misunderstanding of the PD that TNG’s writers did.
Janeway activates a subspace beacon, hoping that Torres and Kim will be able to trace it. Back in the present, Tuvok says that Janeway would probably activate a subspace beacon, and Kim and Torres try to find it.
The planet is powered by polaric energy, which is incredibly dangerous, and it turns out that there’s a very widespread movement to switch to a safer energy source, but the corporations that make a ton of money off polaric energy don’t want to change. (That doesn’t sound at all familiar……..)
Janeway and Paris get caught up in a demonstration against polaric energy that turns into a riot, and both of them are hurt. The protestors bring them back to their headquarters, where they’re interrogated by Makull, the leader of the protestors. Makull doesn’t trust them, concerned that they’re spies. The kid shows up, and winds up being taken prisoner, too. Paris apologizes for threatening to eat him.
Kes asks Chakotay to beam down for one of the attempts to locate Janeway and Paris, and at one point she hears Janeway telepathically across time through a fissure. They also locate two combadges, which are shattered—the evidence now suggests that the two of them were killed in the calamity.
At one point, they try to contact Janeway and Chakotay’s voice comes through on the combadges. Makull thinks they’re spy devices and removes them, leaving them behind.
Janeway and Paris are brought to a power plant, as Makull has moved up his planned sabotage a week. Janeway is convinced that whatever Makull is doing is going to result in the planet being destroyed, and she realizes that the toothpaste is out of the tube with regard to the Prime Directive, as their very presence changed things. So she tells the truth that they’re from a starship from the future, which is, unsurprisingly, not believed, as it’s ridiculous.
Kes is convinced that Janeway is at ground zero of the calamity, even though Tuvok is sure that she wouldn’t be. However, they’re running out of time, and Tuvok has nothing better to suggest, so they try to pierce the fissure at the power plant.
When they’re brought to the power plant, Janeway doesn’t go along with the plan, tells law-enforcement that they’re hostages, which gets two cops killed and Paris shot. Makull and his gang go in, Janeway following. She tries to stop their sabotage—but then a subspace field opens, and Janeway belatedly realizes that Voyager’s rescue attempt is what caused the catastrophe. She convinced Makull to let her have her phaser, and she uses it to collapse Torres’s subspace beam, which causes time to reset…
Paris is back at ops, trying to convince Kim to date the Delaney sisters. Kes comes to the bridge to ask about a nearby planet. Tuvok scans it and says that it’s a pre-warp society, full of sentient life. Kes is grateful; everyone else is confused.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Polaric energy is powerful, but unstable. It’s dangerous enough to engender protests and, oh yeah, destroy all life on a planet. This is also the only time it’s ever mentioned.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is a firm believer in the Prime Directive, having had lessons in it drilled into her by Paris’s father when she was under his command. (This is, sadly, the shitty version of the PD.)
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok uses his knowledge of Janeway to predict what she’ll do and winds up being hilariously wrong.
Half and half. Torres does all the technobabble, figuring out ways to retrieve Janeway and Paris.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH doesn’t find out until now that Neelix and Kes came on board after they went to the Delta Quadrant, which is why there are no medical records for either of them. He also isn’t informed when Janeway and Paris go missing. He is generally quite cranky about how he’s not being provided with information.
Forever an ensign. Kim has a girlfriend back in the Alpha Quadrant, and he hopes she’ll wait for him, an absurdly naïve attitude to have given how far from home they are. Paris sensibly tries to get him to go on a date. (We will meet Kim’s girlfriend in “Non-Sequitur.”)
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix is convinced that Kes is imagining her telepathy, which is a depressingly patriarchal and patronizing attitude toward her.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. We get the first mention of the Delaney sisters, who will be mentioned repeatedly on the show, finally seen in “Thirty Days” (played by twins Heidi and Alissa Krämer).
“We’re from Kalto Province.”
“Yeah, well, I just talked to the transport attendant. He told me four people came today from Kalto. Two of them were a lot older than you, and they had a child with them.”
“Well, the attendant was wrong. That was us.”
“So where’s the child?”
“We ate him. Because we are demons and we eat children and I haven’t had my supper yet.”
–Janeway trying to convince a kid that they’re legit, and Paris taking the nuclear option.
Welcome aboard. The various natives of the Planet of Orange are played by Nicolas Surovy, Joel Polis, and Brady Bluhm.
Trivial matters: Many writers of Voyager fanfic who were shipping Paris and Kim decided that “the Delaney sisters” was just their code for going off and having wild sex together, and that the sisters didn’t actually exist.
David Kemper (who also wrote or cowrote the TNG episodes “Peak Performance” and “The Enemy“) would later go on to be an executive producer on Farscape, and that show had a third-season episode with a very similar structure, “…Different Destinations,” but that one had a much less happy ending. While the basic structure of our heroes being the ones responsible for screwing up time was intact, the Farscape episode has the protagonists making things worse and not fixing it, while the Voyager episode resets everything.
The outdoor scenes were shot at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which was also used for the Edo’s planet in TNG‘s “Justice,” and for both Starfleet Academy and Starfleet Headquarters in several episodes of TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise.
Set a course for home. “You have a lovely brain.” I like the twist in this one that it turns out that the attempt to rescue Janeway and Paris is what caused the planet to be destroyed in the first place—but then they blow it by having it fixed with literally no consequences. This was a real opportunity to do some meaty, in-depth storytelling, and they utterly ruined it by hitting the resettiest of reset buttons. Only Kes has the faintest idea what happened, and what could’ve been a hard lesson for the crew about consequences—and perhaps an actual colloquy on the Prime Directive, since this world is a classic case of why the PD exists—is instead an utterly inconsequential episode because nobody remembers what happened.
Instead, we get the same appalling version of the PD that we got in “Who Watches the Watchers?” (though at least Janeway figures out what Picard didn’t figure out in that TNG episode, to wit, that the damage had already been done and his continuing to not interfere was only going to make things worse) and “Homeward” (in which our heroes became out-and-out murderers).
On its own, the episode is still good, mostly because the time travel is actually fun and head-twisty in a good way, with effect preceding cause. In the context of the early part of the show, it’s a bit more problematic, partly because we just did temporal mechanics last episode, and partly because it’s yet another focus on Paris.
One of the comments on “Caretaker” (by Eduardo Jencarelli) pointed out that Voyager is the only Star Trek pilot that doesn’t focus on the main character, and it’s a valid point. “The Cage” is about Pike, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is about Kirk, both “Encounter at Farpoint” and especially “Remembrance” are about Picard, “Emissary” is very much about Sisko, “Broken Bow” is about Archer, “The Vulcan Hello”/”The Battle at the Binary Stars” is about Burnham.
But the first Trek show with a female lead has as its POV character in the pilot, not the captain, but the dudebro white guy with the franchise creator’s first name as his middle name whose redemption is apparently so important that two of the first three episodes have to be devoted to it.
Having said that, the line about eating the kid was hilarious…
Still, I would much rather have paired Janeway up with Tuvok (let him pull a Spock and have to wear a hat!) or Chakotay (so they can develop their captain/first officer rapport) or Torres (so they can keep being nerdy together, which is fabulous). The situation on the planet is a nice parallel to the “no nukes” movement of the 1970s, one of Trek‘s more subtle bits of social commentary.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido has written three works of Voyager fiction, most of which don’t actually take place in the Delta Quadrant: the Mirror Universe short novel The Mirror-Scaled Serpent (in Obsidian Alliances, in which Kes and Neelix go through the Caretaker’s array and wind up in the Alpha Quadrant), the novella “The Third Artifact” in The Brave and the Bold Book 2 (which tells the story of how and why Tuvok infiltrated the Maquis), and the short story “Letting Go” in the anthology Distant Shores (which focuses on the families of the crew left behind, primarily Janeway’s boyfriend Mark Johnson).