Saturday, August 6, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Before and After"

“Before and After” breaks a skid of some really bad episodes by going back to the Star Trek standard of lifting an installment above the rest--time travel. This being VOY, however, the time travel is mired in techno babble that at one point has to be completely ignored in order to resolve the conflict. I guess they hoped the audience would not notice. I am afraid I did. Otherwise, the episode is notable for both how badly it treats Kes while concurrently showing what might have been had Jennifer Lein not been fired.

The episode begins six years in the future when Kes has reached the end of the Ocampa lifespan. The Doctor, sporting a rug worse than William Shatner’s, is performing an experiment on her which may extend her life a couple years. She is now married to Tom. They have both a child and grandchild. These are the happiest years of her life. The experiment goes awry when some dormant chronton radiation from an attack years prior by the Krenim infected the whole crew. Krenim missiles are out of step with time, so they can easily pass through the shield. They got them on DHARMA Island. Darn you, Horace Goodspeed!

The chronaton whatsis causes Kes’ mind to travel back to different periods of her life. Remember that. It is only her mind that is traveling. She is leaping into her younger self to experience things as they happen. That will be an important plot point in a moment. Or it should have been, if the writers did not try to pull a fast one on us about it.

Kes’ time travel experience serves two purpose. One is to preview future events, such as the Year of Hell and the blossoming relationship between Tom and Torres. The second is to introduce Kes’ extended family for the shock value of who married whom and who had kids. This takes up the entire first two acts before the story really gets rolling. At some point in her heading backwards through time, the Doctor determines he can stop her travels, but he needs to know the exact frequency of the chrontaton missile to which she was exposed. In order for this to make sense in even by science fiction standards, Kes’ body would have to be exposed to the chronatons and be traveling through time physically. But that is not what is happening. Kes is not physically going back in time.. Her mind is entering her past self. Yet the Doctor claims otherwise in order to make the resolution work.

The resolution involves Kes, at the point of the first Krenim attack, heading down to an unexploded torpedo in order to get the correct chronaton frequency for an experiment in “contemporary” time to solve the problem. One wonders if there is a causal loop with her being exposed to such high levels of chronatons unnecessarily because of a future act, but that is probably not worth going into.

What is going into is the aftermath. The Doctor thought he was doing a good deed by performing an experimental procedure to extend her life. She is at this future point a wife, mother, and grandmother, so she is living at a high point. The experiment inadvertently causes her to travel back in time. In order to save herself, she has to destroy the future she wanted to preserve. You are not supposed to believe it will happen anyway, either. Tuvok explains Kes’ actions each time she leaped back would have likely altered the future. so everything Kes remembers from her future is not going to happen. Yet the episode ends on a high note life line as Kes runs off from a party in her honor to write a report on any information about the future that may have tactical value because there is no time like the present.

The departure of Lein in a few episodes takes the wind out of this episode’s sails. There are so Mny story possibilities it brought up that could never come to fruition. Could there have been a love triangle among Tom, Kes, and Torres. If so, would Kes have used her knowledge of the future to keep Torres from dying in a Krenim attack? Who knows? Kes is such an underdeveloped character the kind of moral choice she would make in that situation is a mystery. It is compounded by setting up the scenarios here, then completely dropping them for future for future episodes. A waste, really.

In spite of its flaws, “Before and After” is an entertaining episode. It at least attempted to do something interesting with the underdeveloped Kes. On another series, I would likely give it lower marks for its flaws, but my ratings are relative to the series. This is about the best VOY can do outside of an event episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment