In the yesteryears of the mid 90s, Paramount Pictures looked to continue the Star Trek boom begun by Star Trek: The Next Generation (which had recently ended) and expanded by Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Wishing to both return the series to its adventurous roots while breaking new social boundaries, they premiered the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager on January 16th, 1995. Featuring a female captain and a surprisingly diverse helping of crew members (by the end of this episode, at least), Star Trek: Voyager would continue on for six years and offer the setting to one of the best Star Trek games ever released (Editor’s Note: This was not a part of the agreed introduction, Tim.) (Tim Response: Don’t care, my phasers are set to frag!).
Every Monday we share a roundtable discussion about a Voyager episode featuring experts pulled from the close group of friends we could easily bribe. This week’s group consists of film/tv critic Ryan and yours truly. Naturally, spoilers are a matter of course with this territory, and portions of our conversation drew on our knowledge of other episodes of both Voyager and other Star Trek shows. You have been warned.
This week covers the fourth episode of Season 1, “Time and Again,” and I kick it off with that wonderfully familiar refrain:
Tim – So Paris has pretty much solidified his credentials as a womanizer (and Mephistopheles to Kim’s Faust) AND threatens to eat Children. It’s probably a dead horse argument, but man. Paris is basically THAT GUY.
Ryan – Paris is hard to ignore. Especially when the episode starts with an opening shot of him at his console and uses his conversation with Kim as the major deja vu bookend for the central story. It’s a nail we’ve hit directly on the head pretty much every time we get together, but Paris is without a doubt meant to be the window for the viewer to the show. And windows go both ways: his portrayal, I’d argue, says plenty a lot about what the show thinks of us, the viewer.
Tim – That’s the aspect that, for me, makes his portrayal all the more insulting. At least insofar as he starts to try and goad poor Kim off the straight and narrow for some twin-action. I mean, I’m all for modern and progressive non-traditional relationships…but that is clearly not what Paris is encouraging here- and if the showrunners think “This is what our audience wants/expects/thinks” – it’s just shocking.
Ryan – Paris is very “bro.” It feels very 90s to me, in its portrayal of young adult masculinity, and it’s not something we’ve even moved that far from as a culture.
Tim – Very true.
Ryan – Though our collective reaction to it means there has been at least some progress.
We would have been remiss had we not made sure to continue our praise of the solid-rock center of the show, though.
Ryan – Paris’ presence on the show does nothing to diminish the strength of presence in Kate Mulgrew as Captain Janeway, though.
Tim – Totally. It was totally awesome to see Janeway in action. Last episode had her handling quantum theory like it wasn’t no thang, and this episode had her threatening suspected terrorists with guns and being an absolutely stubborn/brave hostage.
Ryan – Oh, yeah, she absolutely carries the show.
I want to talk about the outfits, though. The local fashion seems something straight out Star Trek: the Original Series, and not in a good way (if you could imagine a good way that could work).
Tim – Oh God yes. The outfits of those fascist stormtroopers who beat Janeway across the head? I was reminded of the first Hunger Games movie- it was like “Oh, you…you couldn’t have spent just a BIT more of your budget?”
Ryan – Those too! I actually laughed out loud at the moment when the resistance leader in his orange sherbet striped T-Shirt yells “”Their deaths are on your conscience, Janeway!” then goes hopping off towards the power plant clutching his bright blue messenger bag.
Tim – He did look like, had he been some sort of sugary treat, he would have been delicious to lick.
After staring off into the distance for a short period, I finally rejoined the conversation.
Tim – Oh, and that little Moppet (while I’m on my complaining streak)- What is it with Star Trek and bringing in kids in the most annoying way? Or was that just me?
Ryan – No, that child was intolerable. And snotty too – “I’m a reporter. You’re going to be in my school paper!” This episode was losing me honestly through much of the second act.
Tim – Yeah…and it was such a promising premise, too!
Ryan – I thought the twist at the end where it was in fact the Voyager’s own rescue attempt that caused the disaster, was fairly redeeming, though it illustrates a kind of futility in flying through space (at least a space as dangerous and full of temporal anomalies as Voyager’s space seems to be) trying to follow the Prime Directive.
Tim – I thought it was interesting that this plot seemed to once again validate the prime directive, albeit in a weird time-shifty kind of way. I mean, it’s by Voyager’s own (unintentional) actions that the civilization is destroyed.
Ryan – Voyager essentially violated the directive by existing, as far as their own linear timeline was concerned, and then it was up to crew to undo the absolutely apocalyptic damage they caused.
Tim – Absolutely! And I don’t know if other Star Trek episodes have made this point, but I feel like a big part of Voyager’s endorsement is kind of dark- the Prime Directive isn’t some paternal, patronizing thing (as I’ve often read it)- it’s important because the Federation can cause massive amounts of harm and has major consequences when its technology is introduced to these civilizations. I feel like Voyager makes a point of showing those very consequences.
Ryan – And very early on too. We’re only three episodes in and the catastrophic importance of the Prime Directive as well as having to deal with the consequences of your actions before you actually do them have both come up twice.
Tim – While this might be me reading into it, that’s on top of the inclusion of the new knowledge that the Ocampans used to have telepathic abilities. My reading was that these were powers lost when the Ocampa became dependent on the Caretaker, though I suppose that’s never explicitly spelled out.
Ryan – I think that was mentioned in the Caretaker episode actually, yeah. In Janeway’s conversation with the Caretaker toward the end.
Tim – Was it? I must have missed that. I was probably still in shock from the other revelation.
Ryan – Weird biomedical blob rape?
Tim – Yup.
A slight shudder runs through the table.
Tim – I suppose it could be said that the episode continues to lay it bare that the Doctor is being treated rather haphazardly by the crew.
Ryan – He certainly seems to be underlining that the Voyager is on a very non-traditional mission and that they’re having to do a little improvising this far out in space.
Tim – Do you know if Data gets treated this way on TNG?
Ryan – Honestly, i have no idea. That’s a Seth question.
Sensing that he was needed, Seth traveled through the quintessence and appeared as a spirit before our intrepid roundtable.
Seth-ghost – Data definitely wasn’t treated like this in TNG. There was a definite effort on the part of the crew to treat him like a normal member of the crew, though there were some definite “Oh, that Data and his inability to grasp emotions and social cues” looks exchanged. Also, in the second season, Dr. Pulaski does push a little bit on the notion that he is effectively a fully sapient living being. I think the big thing is that because the Doctor is off more than he’s on, and so the crew forgets he exists, whereas the chief medical personnel in TNG and DS9 are constantly being informed of what’s going on and asserting their prerogatives.
Also, random observation, but did anyone else think it odd that they had Tuvok, the guy from the race of aliens that can telepathically meld minds with other beings, be the one to invoke skepticism regarding Kes’s abilities?
Tim – I did find that odd, now that you’ve mentioned it.
The spirit of Seth nods sagely as he evaporates, leaving behind the faint whiff of Earl Grey tea and a thin residue of ectoplasm.
Join us next week for another installment of Roundtable Voyager! We’ll be discussing Star Trek: Voyager s01e05 “Phage” if you would like to watch the episode ahead of time and contribute your own thoughts in the comments of this post. We’d love to have you help shape our discussion! Or, if you’re more interested in “Time and Again”, was there anything you feel we missed, or theories about the episode that you would like to share? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section below!
If you enjoyed this roundtable, please consider donating to Team Acagameia’s Extra Life charity page, where 100% of all funds raised go to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.Simply click on the name of the participant you prefer (Dave, Tim, or Seth) and, once at their page, click “Support Me!” All donations are tax deductible and go to support Hurley Children’s Hospital.