Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Relativity”

“Relativity”
Written by Nick Sagan & Bryan Fuller & Michael Taylor
Directed by Allan Eastman
Season 5, Episode 24
Production episode 218
Original air date: May 12, 1999
Stardate: 52861.3

Captain’s log. Utopia Planitia, 2371, and Janeway is beaming onto Voyager for the first time, taken on a tour by Admiral Patterson (who was also one of Janeway’s Academy instructors). One of the many crewmembers milling about whom she encounters is an ensign in the sciences division who looks just like Seven, but fully human…

It turns out to be Seven, her Borg implants having been suppressed. She’s been sent back in time by Captain Braxton and the starship Relativity to try to find out how Voyager was destroyed. She uses a twenty-ninth-century tricorder to track the device to engineering—where she has a brief conversation with deputy chief engineer Joe Carey—and then finds it, but it’s out of phase. The device will be in this spot.

Carey detects a chroniton spike, and Janeway—who wants to get her hands dirty—traces it to the Jefferies Tube, which they isolate with force fields. Lieutenant Ducane on the Relativity beams Seven back to the future (ahem), but because of the force fields, he didn’t get a full lock, and Seven perishes in transport.

Because time travel is a thing, they try again, planning to once again pull Seven from her own time just before Voyager explodes.

In 2375, Seven is suffering from sensory aphasia, which turns out to be one of several people suffering from some manner of space sickness. They also discover some temporal anomalies, including Neelix calling for the EMH, but the EMH arriving before the emergency Neelix called him for.

Star Trek: Voyager "Relativity"

Screenshot: CBS

Paris recruits Seven for a doubles ping-pong game against Torres and Kim. On what should be Paris’ winning shot, the ball freezes over the table—yet another temporal anomaly. Torres and Seven trace the source of the anomalies to the same Jefferies Tube Seven went to in 2371. With her ocular implant, she can see the device, which is good, because neither Torres’ eyes nor her tricorder can detect it.

Kim picks up a chroniton distortion that Janeway recognizes from when Voyager was in drydock. The captain orders all hands to abandon ship. Seven is kidnapped by two of Braxton’s people right before Voyager is destroyed.

Braxton and Ducane welcome Seven to the Relatvity for the third time. They’re trying to find out why Voyager was destroyed, their interest specifically prompted by the temporal anomalies the ship suffered before its destruction. Braxton particularly warns Seven to avoid Janeway, as she’s a temporal menace. Braxton mentions that he’s had to clean up Janeway’s mess three times, one of which involved him being stuck on twentiethcentury Earth for three decades.

After Ducane covers up her implants, they send her back to where they now think is when the device was places on Voyager: during a Kazon attack during the ship’s second year of its Delta Quadrant sojourn. Seven is skeptical that the Kazon were responsible, but Braxton and Ducane theorize that someone took advantage of Voyager’s shields being down during the attack.

They send Seven back to 2372. On the bridge, Kim detects a chroniton distortion, which Janeway (again) recognizes from when Voyager was in drydock. She orders force fields in the same vicinity as where the distortion was last time, which traps Seven in a corridor, unable to communicate with or be transported by Relativity, though the timeship can still hear Seven. Janeway and Tuvok confront Seven, who tries to obey the Temporal Prime Directive and not say anything beyond that she’s from the future, but when Tuvok detects her hidden Borg implants, Janeway goes into crisis mode. Seven throws caution to the wind and tells them the truth, to Braxton’s great annoyance.

Seven convinces Janeway to take her to the Jefferies Tube. They find an older Braxton placing the device in the tube, much to the surprise of the younger Braxton. Old Braxton has suffered a psychotic break, blaming Janeway for losing his rank and his sanity.

Star Trek: Voyager "Relativity"

Screenshot: CBS

Old Braxton uses his tricorder to beam to 2371. Seven follows, but she is now starting to feel the effects of temporal psychosis, as too many time jumps are dangerous. Meanwhile, Ducane puts Young Braxton under arrest for crimes he will commit.

When Seven catches up to Old Braxton, he transports again, this time to 2375. Seven is barely conscious after this latest jump, but manages to shoot the tricorder out of Old Braxton’s hands, so now he’s trapped in 2375. Seven collapses in the mess hall where she urges her counterpart (who was playing ping-pong) to stop Old Braxton, as the fate of the ship depends on it. Relativity then beams the ill Seven back to the twenty-ninth century, while the “current” Seven captures Old Braxton. Relativity is then able to bring back, not just Old Braxton, but also Janeway.

Ducane explains to Janeway that Seven’s attempt to stop Old Braxton have resulted in several changes to the timeline that need to be fixed. Seven physically can’t make any more journeys through time, so they need Janeway to do it: stop Old Braxton before he can place the device. Old Braxton reluctantly informs them where and when he came on board, including tripping over an injured crewmember. Janeway goes back to 2372, has a brief conversation with Torres that she bluffs her way through (luckily Torres doesn’t notice that her hair is shorter), and then stops Old Braxton. This fixes things, with Ducane gratefully saying that there’s only an incursion of 0.0036 (probably the Torres conversation). Only Janeway and Seven will remember what happened, and Ducane urges them to keep it quiet. Meantime, the two Braxtons will be integrated, as will the two Sevens.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Ducane quizzes Seven on temporal theory, including the Pogo Paradox and the Dali Paradox. Seven describes the former as, “A causality loop in which interference to prevent an event actually triggers the same event,” which means it’s named for the famous line from the title character in Walt Kelly’s comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The Dali one is based on Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory, the one with all the melting clocks, and is when a temporal fissue slows time down to a crawl.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway’s first time on Voyager was in drydock, and she enjoys going on her first tour. Five years later, she is recruited for time-travel wackiness, and complains, as she always does, about how it gives her a headache. Meanwhile, her various time-travel experiences have been sufficiently traumatic to Braxton to cause him to go completely binky-bonkers.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Janeway and Patterson activate the EMH in drydock, and he’s a lot more snotty than he is before he mellowed over the course of five years. Though he’s still a little snotty, as he tells Seven that he has a better bedside manner than the medical database.

Resistance is futile. Seven’s ocular implants can see the out-of-phase temporal device, which makes her the right person to recruit for the mission. She also gets to play ping-pong for the first time, and for the winning team!

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Amusingly, Paris and Torres play against each other in doubles ping-pong rather than on the same team…

Do it.

“The Borg once travelled back in time to stop Zefram Cochrane from breaking the warp barrier. They succeeded, but that in turn led the starship Enterprise to intervene. They assisted Cochrane with the flight the Borg was trying to prevent. Causal loop complete.”

“So, in a way, the Federation owes its existence to the Borg.”

“You’re welcome.”

–Seven summarizing the plot of First Contact, Ducane making a clever remark, and Seven being clever right back at him.

Star Trek: Voyager "Relativity"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. It’s Great Character Actor Theatre! First we have the return of Braxton from the “Future’s Endtwo-parter, this time played by the ever-brilliant Bruce McGill, who will probably always be best known as D-Day in Animal House. The regal Dakin Mathews plays Patterson. And then there’s our Robert Knepper moment, as I was stunned to see one of my favorite actors, Jay Karnes—probably best known for his role as Dutch on The Shield—playing Ducane.

In addition, Josh Clark is back for the first time since the first season’s “State of Flux” as Carey, albeit in flashback. Clark will next be seen, also in a flashback, in “Fury.”

Trivial matters: This episode has our first real view of the Utopia Planitia shipyards, previously only seen as a tiny picture in TNG’s “Parallels” and as a holodeck re-creation in TNG’s “Booby Trap.”

The 2371 portions take place prior to “Caretaker,” with Janeway first proposing the notion of recruiting Paris and with Tuvok having already infiltrated the Maquis. The 2372 portions were likely intended to be one of the attacks on Voyager by the Kazon just prior to “Alliances,” though the stardate puts it prior to “Maneuvers.”

Braxton also appears in the comic books Myriad Universes: The Last Generation by Andrew Steven Harris & Gordon Purcell and New Frontier: Double Time by Peter David & Mike Collins. Ducane also appears in Double Time as well as the Department of Temporal Investigations novel Watching the Clock by regular commenter Christopher L. Bennett, who gave him the first name Juel.

Braxton mentions three temporal incursions of Janeway’s that he had to fix. One is explicitly “Future’s End” (though Braxton said at the end of Part 2 that he had no memory of the events), and the other is a temporal incursion in the Takara Sector, which is likely a reference to “Timeless.” Not sure what the third one is, but there are lots of possibilities to choose from, including “Time and Again,” the “Year of Helltwo-parter, and upcoming episodes “Fury,” “Shattered,” and “Endgame.”

In 2371, Janeway mentions recruiting Paris specifically for his piloting skills to help them get through the Badlands. But he was stated in “Caretaker” as being recruited because he worked with Chakotay’s cell, plus he was explicitly forbidden from piloting Voyager until after Stadi was killed.

Seven replaces Chapman, who was Seven’s date in “Someone to Watch Over Me,” as Paris’ partner in the ping-pong doubles match.

When asked for an example of the Pogo Paradox, Seven mentions the events of the movie First Contact.

The EMH indicated that “Caretaker” was the first time he was activated, but he was apparently activated once before in drydock, though only for a few seconds. It’s also possible that the program was reset during the shakedown cruise.

A few days before receiving the script for this episode, Jeri Ryan did an online chat, where someone asked when Seven would wear a Starfleet uniform. She said, “Never, because Seven isn’t Starfleet.” And then this episode happened…

Star Trek: Voyager "Relativity"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “Tempus fugit.” There are some issues with this episode, notably the various discontinuities noted in the Trivial Matters section, but I’m willing to forgive them for several reasons.

One is that this episode has two of the finer actors of our time, Jay Karnes and Bruce McGill, both doing extremely well. Nothing against Allen G. Royal, who was fantastic as the crazy-pants homeless version of Braxton, but pretty nowhere as the “normal” version, but McGill is very effective here, both as the no-nonsense Young Braxton, and as the batshit Old Braxton. And while this hardly ranks among Karnes’ best roles (he was superb not only in his most famous role as Dutch on The Shield, but also in guest turns on both Sons of Anarchy and Burn Notice), he’s nicely solid.

Two is that it’s yet another good vehicle for Jeri Ryan. Seven has gotten a lot of attention since joining the cast, but she’s also earned it, as Ryan has continued to be superb.

Three is that it’s fantastic to watch Janeway (with the bun again!) touring her new command for the first time. Kate Mulgrew’s kid-on-Christmas-morning enthusiasm is infectious. And it was great seeing Carey again, though the fact that we haven’t seen him in the present since season one is frustrating (it was a great opportunity to show him in both timelines, too!). It’s only too bad they didn’t get Scott Jaeck or Alicia Coppola or one of the other crewmembers who died in “Caretaker” to show up, though that would require that the producers remember that there were crewmembers who died when they fell down the Caretaker’s rabbit hole, which they haven’t remembered since halfway through the pilot episode, so why start now? (Yes, I keep harping on this. No, I won’t stop.)

And four is that it’s a fun little time-travel story. Not overwhelmingly consequential, though I think it’s horrible that Ducane can imprison Braxton for a crime he hasn’t committed yet. I particularly like that it cops to some of the absurdities, that it acknowledges how the English language isn’t really geared for the fluid tenses of time travel (I especially love Braxton’s line, “I gave up trying to keep my tenses straight years ago”), and most particularly for giving us the Pogo Paradox and the Dali Paradox, which are just fucking brilliant.

Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido is also reviewing each new episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as they’re released on this site.

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