Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Time and Again"

“Time and Again” features the first appearance of another running theme prevalent with VOY. We have already been introduced to the bad science and Janeway’s love/hate relationship with the Prime Directive. In this episode, we add the Magic Reset Button to VOY’s bag of tricks. The Magic Reset Button is some occurrence in the last few minutes of the episode that renders everything you have just watched moot. There is also a variation that says no matter how damaged the ship is at the end of an episode, it will be perfectly fine in the next. There also appear to be a unlimited amount of finite supplies of weapons and shuttlecrafts, but we will get to those in time.

As a bonus, ’Time and Again” hit’s the trifecta of bad science, the love/hate relationship with the Prime Directive, and the Magic Reset Button. Ot is, in many ways, the perfect VOY episode.

While traveling near an inhabited, pre-warp planet, Voyager is struck by a polaric wave. It is a result of a polaric explosion on the nearby planet. The planet is a complete wasteland. They learn the population had been using polaric radiation as a power source. It is banned in the Alpha Quadrant because of its instability. Even the Romulans and Cardassians honor the ban. The aftermath of presumed power plant explosion has opened temporal rifts across the planet. Janeway and Tom fall through one and wind up two days prior to the explosion.

Tom believes the two have a duty to inform people what is about to happen. Janeway disagrees. She says the Prime Directive prevents them from interfering in the natural course of events under the rationale something worse may happen if they intervene. Paris wonders aloud what could be worse than genocide. Janeway does not answrr, but orders him not to say a word to anyone.

Pondering Tom’s question with Janeway’s belief in worse consequences, the only thing I can come up with is Janeway is embracing the possibility if this civilization survives rather than be destroyed in two days, it might become some fearsome warrior race that brutally subjugates its neighbors. The only thing worse than genocide would be multiple genocide. However, if you take Janeway’s position to its logical conclusion, just should never intervene at any point. Do not save that drowning boy. He might be the next Hitler. That seems like such a remore possibility that the Prime directive in this case is highly immoral.

We could debate the question all day long and not resolve anything, so that is pointless. What should be taken away from Janeway’s decision is her inconsistency in applying the prime directive. She ignored it in “Caretaker” by destroying the array so the Kazon could not commit genocide against the Ocampa. But in “Time and Again,” she not only acknowledges the Prime Directive, but interests it so strictly she believes allowing genocide is the more moral thing to do. Get used to this. Janeway will literally flip a mental coin anytime she is faced with a similar choice to decide her course of action.

Putting aside the moral debate, Janeway and Tom get mixed up in a terrorist plot to destroy a polaric power plant when they stumble across a protest being broken up by police. They are taken as hostages for the planned attack, which Janeway opts to cooperate with under the assumption it is the terrorist act that causes the genocide. Yeah, suddenly the Prime Directive does not matter to her yet again. At least she comes around to some consistency--she is acting both here and in “Caretaker” to prevent genocide.

She soon discovers that the terrorist explosion did not wipe out the population, but the rescue attempt conducted by Torres. She opens a temporal rift too close to the polaric reactor. Janeway destroys the temporal rift. Its destruction reverses everything back in time two days, wherein the planet is fine and no one remembers a thing other than Kes, who accepts her vision of tragic events as a bad dream.

As I said above, “Time and Again” is a typical VOY episode. Bad science both forces a problem and presents a solution. There is a moral dilemma which is overcomplicated by either honoring Federation ideals too strictly or throwing them out the window altogether. The resolution winds up meaning nothing in the long run because either the whole scenario is reset or any result is otherwise ignored for the sake of later drama. All things considered, “Time and Again’ is typically watchable VOY fare.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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