Monday, July 2, 2012

Harry Kim Gets A Decent Episode That's A "Non Sequitur"

The Good: Good acting, Interesting character development
The Bad: Plot holes one could fly a shuttlecraft through
The Basics: When Harry Kim encounters a generic space/time anomaly, he inexplicable works to "right" the timeline and put himself back aboard the distant, doomed U.S.S. Voyager.

Star Trek, as a franchise, is obsessed with time travel and incidents involving time and space. Star Trek: Voyager is no exception to that rule, but from the beginning, I was real wary of how the show would deal with time travel episodes. The essential problem that Star Trek: Voyager faces when dealing with time travel is that the show must deal with both time and space. That is, because the basic premise of the show is that the U.S.S. Voyager is lost tens of thousands of light years away from known space, any temporal anomaly they encounter will either put them back in time in their displaced area or create a reality wherein Voyager is not lost in the Delta Quadrant. When the series reached "Non Sequitur," early in the second season, it created the first one of these problems that resulted in an interesting, but somewhat unsatisfactory episode.

Harry Kim, alone in a shuttlecraft, suddenly finds himself awake and alive on Earth. Bewildered, Kim soon learns that he is working for StarFleet Engineering on a new Runabout design. Confused by what happened, Kim begins to push away his girlfriend Libby and hunt for Tom Paris, who never made it onto the U.S.S. Voyager in this reality as a result of a problem on Deep Space Nine. Kim learns that in this altered reality, another person had his posting on Voyager and he teams up with the very rogue Tom Paris to return himself to the proper timeline.

Why? Who knows? I mean, seriously, anytime on Star Trek: Voyager that the ship or crew ends up near Earth, one has to ask why they bother trying to get back. In "Non Sequitur," Kim basically makes a choice to return to exile and possible death under the idea that time in this new formation is somehow not "right." There's not even a moment that this character is looking around Earth saying "cha-ching! I hit the jackpot!" One might say that that means his character has an integrity that makes him put the welfare of the crew above his own. I say it's bad writing ("Non Sequitur" was written by staff one-trick pony Brannon Braga) and it makes little sense.

What makes almost no sense is how Kim translates both time and space. I get the time travel; Kim hits some sort of time stream that sends him into an alternate reality. Okay, how is it the alternate reality puts him back at home? Shouldn't he be in an alternate reality, alone somewhere in the Delta Quadrant? But let's give Braga the idea that whatever problem the time stream represents (there's an alien on the alternate Earth who was sent to aid Kim and help him get back to Voyager) it can translate our normal, happy Harry Kim to this alternate reality in both time and place. This begs the question: why aren't there two Harry Kims? There ought to be Harry Kim (native to this timestream) and (our everyday average) Harry Kim. This episode has some shades of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Parallels" (reviewed here!), save that that episode was careful enough to illustrate where the roaming Worfs went.

In short, this episode is one poorly constructed spatial-anomaly-of-the-week episode and it does not satisfy any viewer who has a lick of desire to understand what is supposedly actually going on.

That said, it's fun to watch. Once we accept that the spatial anomaly that is creating the plot is poorly conceived and surrender to simply experiencing the episode, "Non Sequitur" is not bad. First off, this episode gives Harry Kim a chance to actually shine. In the only previous Harry Kim episode, "Emanations" (reviewed here!), Kim did little but die and listen to others debate religion. Here he has the chance to be heroic and he lives up to the role.

"Non Sequitur" provides Kim with a problem that he must solve and he relies on his intelligence and ingenuity to make it happen. It's refreshing, given how neglected his character has been thus far, to see that he has actual cleverness to him. Given that he is a relatively green character, it's refreshing to see even the most junior officers are competent. Kim lives up to what fans of the franchise hope the standards of StarFleet are.

Moreover, "Non Sequitur" evolves well into a decent buddy story. Finding Tom Paris, Kim uses what he knows from his reality to convince Paris to join him and the two team up well to do their thing, which in this case means stealing the experimental runabout from StarFleet. This, of course, raises the other irksome question of "if Harry Kim uses a Runabout to get back to where he belongs in the timestream, what happens to the Runabout and how does he end up back in the shuttlecraft he left in?"

I believe the producers would like to answer with "sit down and shut up!" Sigh.

Part of the reason Kim and Paris work so well is the acting in "Non Sequitur." Paris, played by Robert Duncan McNeill, is distinctly different from Paris on Voyager. McNeill plays Paris as more of a drunk and a loser than the rogue who is familiar in every other episode. He alters the character's body language and even the force with which the character speaks to portray a truly alternate version of the character.

But it is Garrett Wang who rules "Non Sequitur." Wang embodies Harry Kim as clever, resourceful and energetic, things he seldom has the chance to do most weeks. Wang makes the viewer believe in his character's integrity, eagerness and physical abilities, though we've not seen them from him before. It is Wang's acting that takes the episode from a plot-intensive disappointment and pulls it into average territory.

Ultimately, "Non Sequitur" begins a series of spatial anomalies that find the U.S.S. Voyager or members of its crew at Earth or Federation space with little explanation as to how things actually work. This is a weaker episode, but there's just enough to recommend at least one viewing, if not owning this one.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please check out my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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