The Good: Engaging plot progression, Decent acting, Intriguing villain
The Bad: No character development among the primary characters
The Basics: When Star Trek: Voyager does a time paradox episode, it lifts from obvious sources, but still manages to make it feel fairly fresh with “Relativity.”
At my most cynical, I tend to point out the episodes that the key elements of any episode of Star Trek: Voyager are pulled from. There are few where the aspects are so recognizably lifted as “Relativity,” an episode that combines the essential plot and style elements of “All Good Things . . .” (reviewed here!), “Visionary” (reviewed here!), and “Trials And Tribble-ations” (reviewed here!). Watching “Relativity,” it reminded me most of “Visionary,” but it made me think of something several members of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast were quoted frequently as saying as the series went on; they wished they could go back and reshoot the pilot episode without the awkwardness they had while initially filming it. Some of the actors got that chance with “All Good Things” and there are a few scenes in “Relativity” that call that – and the integration of the Star Trek Deep Space Nine characters into the original series footage in “Trials And Tribble-ations – to mind.
But more than being derivative, “Relativity” manages to feel fresh. Despite having obvious markers that tie it to earlier works in the franchise, “Relativity” actually manages to carry the performances and pace in such a way that the viewer does not sit through the episode and feel like they are watching something that familiar. In fact, “Relativity” is a pleasant surprise for Star Trek: Voyager fans and, indeed, science fiction enthusiasts in general.
Prior to the launch of Voyager on its maiden trip, Janeway is touring the ship at the Utopia Planitia shipyards. She is unaware of Seven Of Nine, in a StarFleet science officer uniform, walking around the ship and does not know her when she interacts with her in the briefing room. While Janeway tours her ship, Seven Of Nine reconfigures an EPS relay, which quickly comes to the attention of the engineering crew and Janeway. Seven Of Nine discovers a bomb aboard Voyager that is kept out of phase, but is killed beaming back to the timeship Relativity before she can defuse it.
At a different point in Voyager’s journey home, the bomb actually goes off. Preceded by cases of spacesickness and temporal fractures throughout the ship that have different rooms existing in different timeframes, Voyager is damaged by a temporal weapon. Moments before the bomb explodes, destroying the Federation ship, agents from the timeship Relativity appear on Voyager to abduct Seven Of Nine and take her to the future to recruit her for the time-travel mission. Seven Of Nine is sent back to a Kazon attack that might be when the bomb itself was placed. Seven Of Nine is then set on an adventure through various time frames to stop the bombing and discover who the potential assassin was.
Before I take a lot of flack, I understand time travel, I understand temporal paradoxes. That said, “Relativity” makes no sense. Seven Of Nine discovers the bomb planted before the launch of Voyager, but the bomb is gone when she searches for it during the Kazon attack. While I can certainly buy the invention of a temporal weapon that moves in and out of time, the spatial aspect is utterly implausible in this instance. In other words, if the bomb were planted before Voyager’s launch, it would be on the ship the entire time. If it fell out of temporal synch, Seven Of Nine would have found it during the Kazon attack. That it is not there means that it was not planted at that point (which makes her mission to that timeframe incomprehensible). While the weapon could reasonably unplant itself in time, how it would travel with Voyager after coming unhinged in time makes no sense. Thus, “Relativity” is a mess on the writing front.
The only sensible explanation to “Relativity” comes in the idea that on one of the earlier missions, Seven Of Nine discovered the bomb’s location, after the ship’s launch but before the Kazon attack, and removed it and that the placing of the bomb during the Kazon incident is actually the assassin’s second attempt. That is not supported by the episode itself (in fact, just the opposite – the episode insists the bomb was placed during the Kazon attack and that makes its presence at Utopia Planitia inconceivable) and “Relativity” tries to be clever as opposed to making sense.
When rationality and reason is removed from the equation, though, “Relativity” is actually enjoyable. The acting is quite good, with Jeri Ryan rising to the occasion as Seven Of Nine, though the episode does not develop her character in any meaningful way. She is merely the piece moved along for the plot. Even so, she does fine as the principle performer. She is supported well by Bruce McGill (Captain Braxton) and Jay Karnes. Karnes plays the executive officer on the Relativity and he and Jeri Ryan have decent on-screen chemistry, making one almost wish there were further episodes with him in the role.
I am going to stop there because the more I objectively consider “Relativity,” the worse I think it is. Ironically, this was one of the most enjoyable episodes of this phase of the series!
[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!
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© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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