Tuesday, October 30, 2012

For Its 100th “Timeless” Episode, Star Trek: Voyager Does The Same Old Crap!

The Good: Mostly decent acting, Good effects, Moments of character
The Bad: Beltran's performance/guest characters, Entirely predictable and familiar plot
The Basics: "Timeless" once again jerks fans of Star Trek: Voyager fans around with little regard for actually presenting something new or different.

For those who might not follow my reviews regularly, with Star Trek: Voyager, I have a pretty consistent and reasonable bitch. Yeah, I complain pretty constantly about how the ship will encounter an alien technology that works only for the duration of the episode they are in before failing, leaving them (essentially) no better or worse off than when the episode begins. By the time the fifth season of Star Trek: Voyager came around, that annoying pattern was usually paired with the ship encountering a spatial anomaly that would make their travels even more difficult than usual (i.e. a nebula that required the crew to be put in suspended animation or a vast area of space where there was absolutely nothing.

So, I suppose it ought to be no surprise that for the one hundredth episode, Star Trek: Voyager kept to business as usual. To be fair to the writers – Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, and Joe Menosky – they at least make a passing attempt at undoing that trend by revisiting one of the “failed” technologies from a prior episode. In “Hope And Fear” (reviewed here!), the U.S.S. Voyager acquired a quantum slipstream drive and managed to use the drive for only a portion of the episode. Big sigh for the fact that, in a crunch, Voyager was able to use the quantum slipstream drive to catch Arturis, but with months of research (including, retroactively, years!), they cannot get the technology to work.

In the future, Harry Kim (who goes just by “Harry” now) and Chakotay beam down to a frozen planet where they find the U.S.S. Voyager embedded underneath several meters of ice. The two survivors of Voyager recover Seven Of Nine’s corpse and the Emergency Medical Hologram in an attempt to change history.

In the past, the crew of Voyager is celebrating the integration of the quantum slipstream drive. Tom Paris, however, is wary of the new technology, having discovered a phase variance that knocks the ship out of the new drive and (in simulations) killing everyone. Harry Kim argues fervently for a new strategy; take the Delta Flyer ahead of Voyager and relay the relevant information back to Voyager. Of course, that attempt fails, leaving the shuttle crew – Harry and Chakotay – trapped in the shuttle after Voyager crashes to its frozen grave.

Obviously, the rest of the episode is preoccupied with how Harry Kim and Chakotay try to change the past.

The one hundredth episode of any series is a milestone and “Timeless” has a pretty ridiculous “ticking clock” aspect (Harry Kim argues that the flight has to occur the morning after the celebration because the crystals in the quantum slipstream drive are already decaying). The episode never actually addresses how Harry Kim and the Voyager crew got the crystals to begin with. There is a pretty obvious bit of logic that dictates that acquiring or growing new crystals would take less time than risking everyone’s lives or sitting still.

The Harry Kim who is fifteen years older is actually pretty cool. Kim is a criminal, essentially a pirate who has violated the Temporal Prime Directive out of guilt for miscalculating the phase variance years prior. “Timeless” gives Garrett Wang a real chance to thrive as an actor. Wang sells Harry Kim as an abrupt, somewhat angry character who has a strong motivation as a character.

At the other end of the spectrum is Robert Beltran as Chakotay. Chakotay is involved with Tessa Omond, which might have worked better had either character made sense or been well-acted. Chakotay and Janeway share an unusually intimate scene (it’s more like second season Chakotay and Janeway than fifth season Chakotay and Janeway) and Chakotay and Tessa have no real connection. In fact, Christine Harnos – who plays Tessa – and Beltran have absolutely no on-screen chemistry. This is complicated by a scene where Chakotay seems more torn up about altering the past than Tessa does.

Fortunately, the cameo by director LeVar Burton, as Captain LaForge, does not overshadow Wang’s performance or the essential plot of the episode.

“Timeless” is a ridiculously basic time-travel episode, but the problems with it are ones that have nothing to do with temporal mechanics. Why Harry Kim had to steal the Delta Flyer is not made clear (it seems like a new ship might have been a better choice, especially when it came to eventually fleeing from a StarFleet ship). Also to the credit of the writers and director LeVar Burton, “Timeless” does have an epic feel to it and it capitalizes on the elements from the series that are the most popular. The use of the EMH and even Seven Of Nine (even if primarily as a corpse) illustrate well the way the show has pulled away from being Captain Janeway’s story. The fact that “Timeless” is an episode with a strong engineering concept, yet B’Elanna Torres is virtually absent from the episode (she has essentially a cameo near the beginning of the episode) while Seven Of Nine and Tom Paris deal with the engineering and navigation issues from the bridge is very telling.

Ultimately, “Timeless” is a faux-epic episode, more of the familiar plot structure that viewers are already long familiar with. As a celebration of Star Trek: Voyager that is oddly appropriate.

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


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

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