Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Future’s End, Part I”

“Future’s End”
Written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by David Livingston
Season 3, Episode 8
Production episode 150
Original air date: November 6, 1996
Stardate: 50312.5

Captain’s log. In 1967, a young hippie named Henry Starling is hanging out in the woods when a vessel crashes near him.

In the Delta Quadrant, Janeway’s contemplation of taking up tennis again is interrupted by a ship coming through a temporal rift. It fires on Voyager and then announces itself: it’s the timeship Aeon, from the 29th century, and its captain, Braxton, states that an explosion that destroys all life in Earth’s solar system 500 years hence had a piece of Voyager’s secondary hull in the debris. Therefore Braxton must destroy Voyager to save billions of lives.

Janeway is unwilling to sacrifice herself and her crew on the anecdotal evidence of someone she’s just met, so they fight back. They both wind up falling through the rift, first Aeon, then Voyager.

When they come out of the rift, Paris reports that they’re in orbit of Earth, and Kim reports that it’s 1996. They moved through time and space. They’re also detecting low-frequency subspace readings in Los Angeles, which is unusual to say the least. It’s also the best clue to finding Braxton and their way home.

Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, and Paris beam down wearing civilian clothes appropriate for the era. They split up, and Janeway and Chakotay finally find the subspace reading, on the person of a homeless guy who turns out to be Braxton. He’s been on Earth for three decades. When Aeon crashed in 1967, he transported out before impact, but Starling found the ship before Braxton could get back to it. Starling used the 29th-century technology he salvaged to create Chronowerx, one of the leading tech companies in the world.

According to Braxton, Starling will try to fly Aeon into the future to steal more technology, but his ignorance in how to fly a vessel from nine hundred years in the future will cause it to explode on arrival, killing billions. Braxton now knows that Voyager wasn’t directly responsible, but there’s nothing he can do. He’s been institutionalized already as a crazy person, and he can’t get anywhere near Starling.

At the Griffith Observatory, an astronomer named Rain Robinson detects a gamma emission that Starling, one of Griffith’s benefactors, told them to be on the lookout for. She sees it 20,000 kilometers above North America in orbit, and no other search functions are detecting it. (It’s Voyager, obviously.) She reports this to Starling, who tells her to sit on the news for the moment until they have more data.

While Robinson doesn’t actually call NASA, she does send a message to the signal, which Voyager picks up. Kim contacts Janeway to inform her of this.

The transporters aren’t functioning, so Kim can’t just beam Paris and Tuvok to Griffith to investigate. Paris takes them to a car dealership to take a truck out for a test drive—all the way to Griffith. Unfortunately, Starling thinks Robinson is a security risk, so he sends one of his goons to take care of her.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Paris flirts with Robinson while Tuvok surreptitiously erases her hard drive. Robinson chases them out to their truck just as Starling’s goon shows up—armed with a 29th-century phaser that vaporizes the truck. They manage to escape in Robinson’s VW microbus thanks to Tuvok’s returning phaser fire.

Janeway and Chakotay break into Starling’s office and start downloading his databases to Voyager. They discover that he has Aeon in a bay just off his office. Then Starling himself shows up and his goon holds them at phaserpoint. He thinks they’re here to steal his timeship for themselves.

Starling tells Kim to stop the download or he’ll kill the captain. Kim does so, but then goes into a lower orbit so they can use the emergency transporter (the only one working, but it’s shorter-range) to rescue the captain and first officer.

The good news is that Janeway and Chakotay are safe. The bad news is that Starling is able to use the transporter beam as a hookup to download information from Voyager, at which point he realizes that his own tech is superior to theirs. Besides downloading a ton of data, he also transfers the EMH from sickbay to his office.

Making matters worse is that someone with a camcorder shot footage of Voyager in the atmosphere, and it’s made the news.

To be continued…

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The episode has an entertaining tug of war among Voyager‘s 24th-century technology, Starling’s stolen 29th-century technology, and general 20th-century technology.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway ruefully accepts Chakotay’s mock-congratulations on getting them home, albeit in the wrong time.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok wears a do-rag to cover his ears, because 1996.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Kim tasks Neelix and Kes with watching local broadcasts in 1996 to help the away team out, and they find themselves completely absorbed by soap operas. (For his part, Kim doesn’t see the appeal of dramatic entertainment that you don’t participate in, like a holonovel.) They also catch the news report of the sighting of Voyager in the atmosphere.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Forever an ensign. Kim gets to be put in charge of the ship, and does an okay job of it. Janeway commends him on his timing in getting her and Chakotay out of Starling’s clutches, though that’s what leads to Starling stealing the EMH and a ton of data…

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is, in essence, kidnapped by Starling at the very end.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Paris flirts with Robinson like whoa, with the two of them bonding over mutual love of B-movies.

Meantime, when Janeway and Chakotay are accidentally bumped by a woman on rollerblades, Janeway jokes that the woman could be her ancestor, prompting Chakotay to say that she has her legs. Wah-HEY!

Do it.

“We could’ve worn our Starfleet uniforms. I doubt if anyone would’ve noticed.”

–Tuvok’s commentary on 1990s fashions.

Welcome aboard. Two great guest actors in this one in Ed Begley Jr. as Starling and Sarah Silverman as Robinson. Allan G. Royal plays Braxton, while Susan Patterson makes her first of three appearances as Ensign Kaplan.

All four will return in Part 2.

Trivial matters: Although this episode takes place in the 1990s, and the original series episode “Space Seed” established that the Eugenics Wars were fought in that decade, there is no reference to such in the two-parter, with the producers sensibly not wanting to rewrite contemporary history too much. Having said that, Greg Cox’s two-book series The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh established that what 23rd-century historians referred to as the Eugenics Wars were a collection of covert battles involving various Augments throughout the 1990s that most of the general public was unaware of at the time. The character of Rain Robinson appears in that duology as well—at the end of it, she’s recruited by Roberta Lincoln to work for the Aegis after Gary Seven retires (viz. the TOS episode “Assignment: Earth“).

While working on Starling’s computer, Janeway compares working with such antiquated tech to be akin to working with stone knives and bearskins, a callback to Spock’s line about working with early 20th-century tech in the original series’ “The City on the Edge of Forever.”

Janeway’s interest in tennis was previously mentioned in “Deadlock.”

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “What does it mean, ‘groovy’?” Time travel has long been a staple of Star Trek, from “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” and “Assignment: Earth” on the original series to “Time’s Arrow” on TNG and “Past Tense” on DS9, not to mention the movies The Voyage Home and First Contact, so having Voyager dip into the well was pretty much inevitable.

What was fascinating to me watching this now, 25 years later, was that it also had a nostalgia hit for me, one that only really applied to The Voyage Home prior to this. I don’t really remember the late 1960s of “Tomorrow is Yesterday” and “Assignment: Earth,” “Time’s Arrow” and “City on the Edge…” were both way before my time, and First Contact and “Past Tense” are still in the future (though not for much longer).

Watching “Future’s End” now, I have to admit to getting a giddy sense of amusement at this look back at my twenties (I turned 27 in 1996), from the entertaining fashions to the primitive cell phones to Tuvok’s do-rag to computers with their big-ass monitors. But the best was Starling’s office, which brought me back to the glory days of the dot-com boom of the 1990s when corporate culture was taken over by people in their twenties and thirties who’d convinced investors that their web site would be the best thing ever: the pinball machine, the more relaxed decorations, and best of all, Starling’s outfit of a polo shirt and jeans with a suit jacket over it, the epitome of 1990s casual formalwear.

The story itself hits all the beats entertainingly enough, but what makes it work are the amusements. Watching Paris wander all around all cocksure about how well he knows the period and then get everything wrong, the deranged Braxton’s crazed monologue on time travel in the alley, Neelix and Kes getting completely sucked in by soap operas.

Brilliant guest casting helps. While Allan G. Royal is pretty nowhere as Braxton in the Delta Quadrant, the thirty-years-later homeless version is brilliantly done. Sarah Silverman’s Rain Robinson is a sheer delight, a wonderful local supporting character in the same vein (and worthy of) Edith Keeler and Gillian Taylor. And while he’s written as a tiresome mustache-twirling villain without a trace of nuance, Ed Begley Jr. salvages the one-dimensional role of Starling with a charismatic performance.

The specificity of the damage to Voyager is a bit too constructed—the transporter goes down after they use it the first time and is not fixed in anything like a timely manner, which defies credulity. Also what about the transporters on the shuttlecraft? It’s not like they completely forgot them, given how important they will be in Part 2….

Still, a fun little time-travel romp.

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s next Star Trek project was announced last week: he’s one of the contributors to the Star Trek Adventures Klingon Empire Core Rulebook, now available for preorder (print) and download (PDF) from Modiphius. See Keith talk about the new rulebook alongside fellow scribes Derek Tyler Attico and Kelli Fitzpatrick, as well as Jim Johnson, Chris Birch, Nathan Dowdell, and Sam Webb from Modiphius, and special guest, award-winning Trek illustrator Rick Sternbach from the “Day of Honor” event.

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