Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kes, Paris And Janeway Shine "Time And Again!"

The Good: Well-acted, Interesting concept, Interesting resolution, Moments of character
The Bad: Seems slow upon multiple rewatchings
The Basics: While the characters who are still being established in "Time And Again" are derivative of earlier Star Trek series', this episode manages to combine elements well to be entertaining.

Star Trek: Voyager had one of the more interesting concepts when it began, certainly stronger than Star Trek: The Next Generation (reviewed here!) because it had a premise that seemed logically serialized. The U.S.S. Voyager was lost seventy years away from Federation space, populated by two different crews that were fundamentally at odds with one another, the story seemed like it would make most sense as the tale of a ship slowly degrading as years went by with it under attack, lost and without the ability to get basic maintenance done. Sigh . . . it could have been a good idea and it could have worked. As it is, Star Trek: Voyager rapidly became episodic (everything wraps up nicely by the end of an episode, with the series having little to do with consequences of actions) and one of the last episodes in the first season to even put up a pretense of being serialized was the third episode, "Time And Again," even if the serialized aspects were only passing references.

The U.S.S. Voyager discovers a planet where all life has been wiped out and upon beaming down, a landing party discovers roving filaments that essentially act as time-space portals. They are unpredictable and hard to detect and by the time the Away Team beams back up, Paris and Janeway have been lost. The two find themselves in the past of the planet and they soon realize that the disaster that wiped out all life on the planet is imminent and they work to stop it. As the planet is overcome with protests and revolutions over a power source, Janeway and Paris work to stop a catastrophe. Back in the future, Kes begins to manifest an understanding of how time has been altered and she works with Chakotay to rescue Paris and Kes.

And the whole thing comes together in a way that is astonishingly similar to the preceding episode, "Parallax" (reviewed here!), which is kind of odd considering that one would think at the beginning of a series the producers would be at their most creative. And yet, here is another "Spatial Phenomenon of the Week" episode and it's way too similar to the prior episode to make it a terribly unique plot. However, the plot here seems a bit fresher because the events that occur seem to be more character-driven. In short, instead of "Voyager falls into a hole in space," "Time And Again" becomes an episode with more the concept of "Voyager's crew creates the holes in space."

Interestingly, the lone attempt in "Time And Again" to make the episode serialized is a wonderful scene involving The Doctor and Kes. Kes, an Ocampa, is a new alien species for the Doctor to deal with and he is upset that no one had her take a physical when she came aboard. It is at this moment that the Emergency Medical Hologram is told that she is not the only newcomer on the ship, that half the crew is dead and half the crew is now made up of Maquis rebels from another ship. His reaction is wonderful and it makes the episode.

But the majority of the episode is very insular, very much a story trying to figure out the nature of the accident that destroyed the alien planet and avert the disaster (or at least recover Janeway and Paris). What it does well, though, is use Janeway and Paris. Janeway is characterized in this episode as a diplomat and a take-charge captain. She is a scientist who works hard to evaluate her surroundings and use reason to work her way out of the situation. Paris seems glad to be on a planet, to breathe fresh air (in the past) and just walk around. He is wonderfully characterized here as a rogue who can pretty much take-it-or-leave-it as Janeway works to figure things out.

Sadly, Paris is teamed up for part of the episode with a child and the child actor is not one of the better ones the casting department ever dug up. The kid saw Janeway and Paris materialize and he has a pretty good idea that they do not belong there, so he begins to agitate them. Paris illustrates wonderful character by not simply throwing the kid through a plate-glass window (which I think might have made the episode more interesting).

Star Trek: Voyager seems to be having trouble establishing its characters as unique for the series, though. B'Elanna Torres is a half-Klingon, half-human woman modeled after K'Ehleyr from Star Trek: The Next Generation ("Reunion," reviewed here!) so closely that like the earlier hybrid, she loathes all things Klingon. Paris is a rogue modeled after a character Robert Duncan McNeill played on Star Trek: The Next Generation in "The First Duty" (reviewed here!). There is so little differentiation between Paris and Nick Locarno that early on many fans thought he was the same character! In a similar way, Kes in this episode begins to take on some of the soft-spoken temporal understanding powers that are evident in Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In "Yesterday's Enterprise" (reviewed here!), Guinan seems to understand that time has been radically altered and the episode revolves around her asserting that understanding to set things right. In "Time And Again," Kes develops the powers to do that very same thing. It's a shame that her character is so derivative, adding to a collection of other derivative characters.

Regardless, "Time And Again" is remarkable for the way that it uses its actors. While Kes may be derivative, she certainly portrays Kes in a very different way than Whoopi Goldberg played Guinan. Kes is young and bright, eager, where Guinan is quiet, serene and wise. Actress Jennifer Lein plays Kes and "Time And Again" gives a hint at her potential as a bright, intuitive actress. Lein is articulate, eager and very expressive as Kes here. She's a bit of a gem and - having met her in person - the extroverted nature of the character is certainly a stretch for the actress.

Robert Duncan McNeill is good as Paris and in "Time And Again," he seems very laid back, very comfortable within the skin of his sarcastic character. McNeill makes acting seem easy as he wanders through this episode as Paris. Similarly, Kate Mulgrew takes a very simple approach to Janeway in "Time And Again" that simply works to establish Janeway as a credible scientist and captain. Mulgrew pulls it off with a strong sense of posture. It may seem off, but what Mulgrew does to create a dignity and inner strength for Janeway is all in posture in this episode. When her character is trying to be less noticeable on the planet in the past, she loosens her shoulders some, when she is being assertive, she squares off wonderfully. Mulgrew makes herself here a credible woman of strength and power.

"Time And Again" is a good episode for fans of Star Trek and science fiction in general, but it is hard to recommend for general fans of television. This is a somewhat engaged episode that is still working to establish characters and a sense of place and time for Star Trek: Voyager and while I enjoyed that, the environmental subtext is greatly sublimated by the overbearing nature of the "solve the riddle of the Spatial Phenomenon of the Week" plot. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to people who like science fiction, if not a general audience.

[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete First Season on DVD, which provides the full opening to the series. Read my review of the premiere season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the episodes and films I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment