Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston
Season 2, Episode 5
Production episode 122
Original air date: September 25, 1995
Captain’s log. Kim wakes up from a dream that includes Janeway trying to contact him on a shuttlecraft to find himself in bed in the apartment he shares in San Francisco’s Old Town neighborhood with his fiancée Libby. This confuses him, as he and Libby were not engaged when Voyager was lost—and, well, he should be on Voyager. Libby tells him the date, which is the date he thinks it is, but everything is different.
He’s assigned to the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, and today he’s to help Lieutenant Lasca with a presentation for a new runabout, the U.S.S. Yellowstone. He flubs the presentation (because he knows absolutely nothing about it), claiming to be ill, and Admiral Strickler says he’s off to the Cardassian border, so they’ll have to postpone for a while. Lasca is not pleased.
Kim goes to his office and reads his service record. He was apparently denied the posting to Voyager he’d requested, and instead was assigned to the S.C.E. Ensign Daniel Byrd, whom he and Libby both know personally, got the ops position instead. His career in the S.C.E. is distinguished, apparently, and Lasca had indicated that a promotion to junior-grade lieutenant was in the offing if the presentation went well.
Kim tries to go home, but can’t remember the address, and has to abashedly ask Cosimo, who owns the café where he apparently gets a Vulcan mocha every morning, where he lives.
Libby was in the shower when he got home, and they have a talk that ends in mad passionate nookie. Kim asks her to say she loves him as if he hasn’t heard it in months. He says that he’s been away on a mission that got them lost for a long time, and he has missed her—she thinks it’s some kind of role-play foreplay.
At four a.m., he wakes up and goes to his computer, pausing to hold his clarinet again for the first time in forever. He tries to call up Voyager’s mission profile, but it’s classified. However, Kim knows the ship’s access codes, what with being the ops officer and all, and is able to read the crew manifest. It looks familiar, but two names are missing—his own, and Tom Paris. According to the computer, Paris was imprisoned, and only recently released on parole.
Libby tries to find out what’s wrong, and Kim insists he’s in the wrong reality and he has to go to Marseilles. Libby thinks he should see a counselor or a neurologist, but he insists, and she trusts him and lets him go.
Kim finds Paris in the real Chez Sandrine playing pool. Paris explains that he was supposed to be on Voyager, but he got into a bar fight on Deep Space 9 and got imprisoned by a cranky shapeshifter, thus keeping him from going on the mission despite Janeway’s best efforts. All things considered, he thinks he’s better off. He finds Kim’s story of this being the wrong timeline to be crazy, but Kim says Paris is the best pilot he knows and he needs his help to get back to the right timeline. Paris basically tells him to screw off.
Kim goes home to find Lasca and a Starfleet Security detail, who escort him to talk to Strickler (who was supposed to be going to the Cardassian border, so it’s not clear why he’s still there). They know he accessed classified data about Voyager and was in contact with Paris, a criminal and Maquis sympathizer. Kim tries to explain what’s going on from his POV, and Strickler and Lasca try to make sense of it. Several possibilities are mentioned, both good (Kim has had his memory altered) and bad (he’s a Maquis sympathizer himself) and somewhere in the middle (he’s been replaced by an alien). Oddly, his being a changeling spy is never brought up, even though this is right when paranoia about such is at its height (this episode aired between DS9’s “The Adversary” and “The Way of the Warrior“).
Eventually, Kim stands at attention and refuses to speak further without legal counsel. The response to this is, oddly, not to summon someone from the JAG office to represent him as he just requested, but instead to put an ankle bracelet on him and confine him to his apartment.
He encounters Cosimo on his way home, and the café owner reveals that he’s actually an alien from a species that lives outside time and space. Kim’s shuttlecraft encountered a timestream and it altered reality, changing to a different timeline. Cosimo has no control over it, nor any way to get him back to reality, but his people have mapped the timestreams, and he provides that for Kim, at least.
Kim starts tampering with the ankle bracelet. Libby sees that and is livid. She can’t understand why he would abandon her for a world where he was lost to her for decades, possibly forever. She says she doesn’t know him anymore, but he insists he’s the same guy she met at the Ktarian music festival, the same guy who took three weeks to work up the courage to ask her out. But he’s also a guy who can’t remain in a wrong timeline where Paris isn’t living his best life and where Byrd is stuck in the Delta Quadrant.
When Starfleet Security shows up, he jumps out a window. The security guys chase him on foot, even though Kim is still wearing his combadge and Starfleet has access to transporter technology. Just as the security guard catches up to Kim, Paris socks him in the jaw. Paris changed his mind about helping Kim because Kim is the first person he’s met in a while that cared about Paris’s future.
The two of them are able to break into Spacedock via Paris’s personal mini-transporter that he got his hands on, er, somehow, despite being a parolee. They then steal the experimental Yellowstone runabout, er, somehow—apparently Starfleet doesn’t actually secure their craft. Kim goes to a timestream location near Earth and re-creates the circumstances of the situation he was in right before he woke up in San Francisco, with Paris holding off the Starfleet pursuit ships, er, somehow. The runabout explodes just as Paris activates the transporter—
—and Kim is back on the shuttlecraft. Voyager manages to beam him out before the shuttle is destroyed by the temporal anomaly. After arriving on the bridge, Kim thanks a very confused Paris for all his help.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Kim’s shuttlecraft encountered a temporal anomaly that altered the timeline so that Ensign Daniel Byrd was assigned to Voyager instead of Kim. Kim has to re-create the accident in order to get home.
Forever an ensign. Apparently Kim believes he’s meant to be lost in the Delta Quadrant and miserable and alone, rather than be a successful member of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers on the verge of promotion while living with the love of his life whom he’s about to marry. Sure.
Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps. In the alternate reality, Odo arrested Paris after the latter got into a bar fight at Quark’s. This got his parole revoked, and he couldn’t go to the Badlands with Voyager.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. By not disappearing down the Caretaker’s rabbit hole, Kim’s relationship with Libby (who is obviously the girlfriend he mentioned in “Time and Again“) deepened to the point where they’re engaged and living together. Since Kim couldn’t remember the address when he came home from Starfleet HQ, it’s obviously not where they were living before. (Then again, he was at the Academy, so he may well have lived in student housing before reporting to Voyager in the main timeline.)
“Where are you going?”
“I’ve got to see Paris.”
“But you just said you were going to Marseille.”
–Libby and Kim doing their version of “Who’s on First?”
Welcome aboard. Jennifer Gatti, last seen as Ba’el in TNG’s “Birthright” two-parter, plays Libby. Jack Shearer, last seen on DS9 as a Bolian in “The Forsaken” and a Romulan in “Visionary,” plays Strickler; he’ll be back as a different admiral, Hayes, in “Hope and Fear” and “Life Line,” as well as the movie First Contact. Mark Kiely plays Lasca, and great character actor Louis Giambalvo plays Cosimo.
Trivial matters: This is Gatti’s only appearance as Libby, though the character will be referenced again in “Persistence of Vision” and “The Thaw.” She also appears extensively in the first four post-finale Voyager novels by Christie Golden (Homecoming, The Farther Shore, Old Wounds, and Enemy of My Enemy), given the last name of Webber, where it’s revealed she’s an operative for Starfleet Intelligence. When Kirsten Beyer took over the Voyager post-finale novels with Full Circle, she was written out, with her and Kim breaking up.
This episode came about because, after the first season, Garrett Wang complained that his character had gotten so little action on the show he didn’t even have a stunt double. Nor did he ever have a romance (I guess he thought “Prime Factors” didn’t really count, since it didn’t go past flirting). Brannon Braga addressed this concern by giving him both.
The interrogation scene was written for Counselor Deanna Troi, but Marina Sirtis was unavailable so they had it be the same admiral to whom Kim gave his presentation, despite the admiral having said he was headed for the Cardassian border right after the presentation.
Kim’s being a clarinetist was established in “Caretaker,” though this is the first time we’ve seen him holding the instrument. He will finally replicate a new one for himself in “Parturition.”
This episode makes copious use of old footage: The Motion Picture (Kim’s shuttle entering Starfleet Command), The Voyage Home (exterior of Starfleet HQ), The Undiscovered Country (establishing shot of San Francisco at night), TNG’s “Relics” (the doors of Spacedock closing, reusing the Dyson Sphere’s door closing), and DS9’s “Armageddon Game” (the runabout exploding).
The Starfleet Corps of Engineers was first mentioned in The Wrath of Khan, and had their own series of monthly novella-length eBooks from 2000-2007, which your humble rewatcher co-developed, edited, and contributed several stories to. They also played a supporting role in the Vanguard series by David Mack, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore. Among the S.C.E.’s other appearances: the reference book Federation: The First 150 Years by David A. Goodman; the novels Prime Directive by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Avatar Book 1 by S.D. Perry, A Time to Die by John Vornholt, and A Singular Destiny by your humble rewatcher; and the comic books Assimilation2 by Scott & David Tipton, Tony Lee, & J.K. Woodward and issue #8 of Malibu’s DS9 comic by Mark A. Altman & Gordon Purcell.
When Kim is going through an alphabetical listing of the crew, he mentions Orlando, Parsons, Peterson, and Platt. Parsons has been mentioned, and seen in passing played by an extra, several times before, including “Phage,” “Cathexis,” “Initiations,” and “Projections.” The others are never seen or mentioned ever again, though they’re also all listed on a crew manifest that will be seen in “11:59.”
Daniel Byrd will be referenced again, in “Juggernaut,” where it will be revealed that he grew up on Kessik IV with Torres. The novel Echoes by Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, & Nina Kiriki Hoffman explicitly establishes that Byrd and Kim graduated together and Janeway had a choice between the two of them.
For the second time (TNG’s “Time’s Arrow” two-parter being the first), a Star Trek episode takes place in San Francisco with several outdoor scenes in which the hilliest city in the country is completely flat.
Set a course for home. “There goes my bank shot.” This is another must-fix-history story in the grand old tradition of “The City on the Edge of Forever” on the original series where history gets “broken” in some way and our heroes must restore the timeline. Voyager itself has dipped into this well once before (“Time and Again“), and will do so again, notably in the “Year of Hell” two-parter, “Timeless,” and “Endgame.”
The problem with “Non Sequitur” is one that will also plague “Endgame”: we are given absolutely no good reason why this particular timeline should be fixed.
Seriously, Kim is (a) not trapped on a ship 70,000 light-years from home, (b) now engaged to the love of his life, and (c) working for the S.C.E. on the verge of a promotion (that he will never actually get in the main timeline). What possible reason does he have to fix things? What possible reason does he have to go back to that other life? Supposedly, there’s the fact that Paris is so miserable on Earth, but I’m sorry, being stuck in another quadrant is not, by any stretch of the imagination, better than being home.
There are so many ways this could have worked. One is to give us some idea who Daniel Byrd is, and why it would be so much worse for him to be stuck in the Delta Quadrant than it would be Kim. Heck, keep it simple and clichéd: he left a pregnant wife behind, and Kim doesn’t want that kid to grow up without a father.
Better yet, find out that they discovered the wreckage of Voyager in the Badlands, and according to the sensor logs, they tried to return home through the Caretaker’s array and were destroyed. In which case, Kim would try to restore the timeline so his friends wouldn’t all die, because being stuck in the Delta Quadrant is better than being dead.
In the absence of that, there are many other things that should have happened in this episode that didn’t, starting with Kim fucking telling someone where Voyager is! Seriously, he has Voyager’s access codes, which he only has because of his knowledge as ops officer, and he knows enough specific details about the crew that he could probably provide enough personal details to make his story convincing to Starfleet Command. Have him do what Barclay would do four years later in “Pathfinder” and try to get in touch with Voyager or at least figure out something. That would’ve been way more useful than nearly getting arrested by Starfleet Security and stealing a runabout because the guy who makes your coffee told you to.
Oh yeah, Starfleet Security. Starfleet has various methods of vehicular transport as well as, y’know, a transporter that can be used to lock onto the combadge Kim’s wearing (or, for that matter, the ankle bracelet he’s also wearing), and yet, for some reason, they have to chase him on foot? Buh?
I also didn’t buy for a nanosecond that a paroled Paris who spent time in Odo’s holding cells would go out of his way to share a drink with Kim, much less travel halfway around the world, break into Starfleet, and sacrifice his life to help him get back to a shittier timeline.
This could’ve been a fun mess-with-your-head what-is-real-and-what-isn’t story of a type that Brannon Braga has written extremely well in the past (as recently as two episodes ago). Instead, it’s a hoary temporal storyline in which the explanation is provided in a lengthy and awkward infodump by Louis Giambalvo in a comedy Italian accent, and which at no point provides any good reason why Kim should do anything other than stay right where he is and enjoy being a successful officer with a fiancée he loves instead of a useless ensign stuck in a tin can on the other side of the galaxy.
Warp factor rating: 2
Keith R.A. DeCandido has started a YouTube channel called “KRAD COVID readings,” where he’s reading his works of short fiction, by way of giving folks some entertainment while they’re at home because of the coronavirus. Episode #6 is him reading his Voyager short story “Letting Go.” Please do subscribe!