Star Trek: Voyager: Before and After   Rewatch 
August 7, 2017 7:15 AM - Season 3, Episode 21 - Subscribe

Out, out, brief candle!/ Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more. / Unless the Doctor tries to alter the Ocampan lifespan with a thingymabob;/ Then all bets are off.

Memory Alpha is a tale/
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/
Signifying nothing:

- In devising this installment of Star Trek: Voyager, Kenneth Biller took inspiration from a work of literature and decided to base the story around Kes, due to his interest in the character. "It's always a challenge to come up with a new and different time travel story," explained Biller. "One of my favorite novels by Martin Amis called Time's Arrow [no, not that one] has as its narrator a man who is moving backwards in time. I thought it would be an interesting thing to try to do on Star Trek. Kes is an interesting person to do it with. She has interesting physiology." Actor Robert Picardo once described the time-jumping element of this episode's plot as "sort of like Slaughterhouse-Five."

- Director Allan Kroeker found he could relate to the episode's plot, thanks to a dream he had once. "Every script has to have a heart or a leitmotif–some vision behind it, something that you can distill into one image," he commented, before recalling, "I remember having a dream once where there were people I knew and loved and they didn't see me. I kept talking to them and I could get no response; they didn't know I was there. And I woke up feeling this anxiety. I was very disturbed by this image of not being able to reach the people who are close to me; it was like being invisible. I thought, 'Well, that's kind of a hellish image,' and that's what I felt was driving this episode. Kes was always just on the verge of explaining it to the crew; she was trying to get home in a way."

- This episode introduces Kes' longer hair style instead of the very short hair style from seasons 1, 2, and part of 3. Jennifer Lien was apparently sensitive to the make-up and adhesive used to apply her Ocampa ears. With the longer hairstyle, it was no longer necessary to apply the Ocampa ears each time she was filmed.

- This episode includes the third of many times Janeway "dies" during the series – on this occasion, as observed by Kes during a Krenim attack.

- Most of the Voyager crew members in this episode seem to have disregarded the Temporal Prime Directive, as they keep asking about Kes' time-traveling experiences. One possible reason for this as that, as Tuvok states, the events she witnessed are only possible futures. (The same justification was given for Picard revealing the events of the anti-time future to his crew in "All Good Things...".)

"It's good to see that old lung is still working, Kessie."

- Neelix, after Kes blows out the candles on her birthday cake

"So, how does it feel to be a grandfather?"
"A lot better than it does to have you for a son-in-law!"

- Kim to Paris, when Kim's wife Linnis Paris gives birth to their son Andrew

"In approximately six months, I will apparently expose Kes to some sort of bio-temporal field in a highly-experimental, yet nonetheless brilliant attempt to stop her aging process."

- The Doctor

Poster's Log:

AKA The Last Great Kes Episode. There's a lot of other stuff in here, such as the Krenim and the Year of Hell (which Voyager will have to endure, before the reset button, in the two-parter episode of the same name), but the heart of the episode is that we know that Kes will live most if not almost all of her life during the course of the series, and so we get the Reader's Digest Condensed Version, in reverse. And, since this is a rewatch, we know that this is not how things will actually go down, but it's very interesting to see how they could have gone down: Tom and Harry don't have a problem romancing people whose ages are in the single digits (and opens up the possibility that, if it does take the ship 70 years to get back to the Alpha Quadrant, there may be several generations of part-Ocampan crew who live their entire lives on the ship, making it truly multigenerational), the ship is capable of bouncing back from having sustained severe damage over some time, Chakotay gets a Starfleet commission (see the Memory Alpha article for more speculation on that and other things such as there being no mention of the Borg), Neelix also joins Starfleet, etc. That much of this is averted by Kes' bringing knowledge of the future back with her (and never minding the Temporal Prime Directive) doesn't take away the appeal of such episodes (TNG and DS9 had them as well, as will ENT), which gives us a glimpse of how things might turn out without making the commitment to making sure that those things actually happen, unless they look like they might work and/or be popular; it's basically test-driving your continuity. And, of course, there's some poignancy in knowing that a lot of this stuff won't come to happen because it's Kes (and a certain amount of anger, because they could have kept her on if they'd wanted to). Good work from the cast, particularly Lien, who doesn't let the old-age makeup do all the work as some actors do, and McNeil when he's talking to Kes about B'Elanna while realizing that he may be losing the person who helped him get over the previous loss.

Minor Quibble Dept.: it occurred to me that, with the version of the Year of Hell in which Janeway and B'Elanna die, and with Kes undergoing the "morilogium" (nice hat tip to "Elogium"), that potential future has all of the main female characters dying. Good job that the showrunners changed their mind when "Year of Hell" rolls around.

Poster's Log, supplemental: WRT the Ocampans aging and reaching maturity at a very young age, indulge me in making another Mass Effect comparison as to the opposite end of the curve: the asari, who are pretty much in the Space Elves trope, live to be a thousand or so, and the two main asari characters, Liara and PeeBee (in Mass Effect:
Andromeda
) are seen as being barely out of their adolescence, despite being over a century old.
posted by Halloween Jack (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Particle of the Week: Chronitons are the clear winner.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Chroniton torpedoes are shield-bypassing ship shredding monstrosities in the episode, but are one of the weakest torpedo choices in the era of Star Trek Online. Their special power is just a movement debuff. Presumably, by this point in the timeline, everyone knows how to technobabble their shields to avoid the other effect.

Ongoing Counts: No changes, as this episode features a well earned reset button.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 22.
* Shuttles: Down 4.
* Crew: 142.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 8.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful.

Notes:
* And we're back to good stories again for a bit.

As ever, I have less to say about stories that I really liked. I guess to start with, they succeeded at their aim of telling a different sort of time travel story from the usual Trek fare, and they did a good job with it. Telling the story out of order gave them a good opportunity to foreshadow on several levels.

I also appreciated Kes being limited by the physical body her consciousness was inhabiting each time. Having her begin the story not just in the dark but literally senile was a fascinating choice. It did make me wonder what happened to her body each time she jumped out of a timeframe, but the resolution suggests her body was left behind in some fashion and her consciousness was either moving around or connecting with itself across different timeframes.

Some stuff that bothered me despite liking the episode:
* As mentioned above, the relationship stuff is a bit skeevy.

I can see why they'd ignore that - differing biology, and a 1-2 year old Ocampan seems about as competent as an adult human - but I really noticed it on this viewing.

* Also mentioned above, the Temporal Prime Directive stuff.

Mind, this fits: Janeway has never cared about this much. She kept the Doctor's mobile emitter despite that being a clear cut case of polluting the timeline (and possibly destroying the future it came from outright). It's just, again, pretty noticeable from a crew that like to go on about the regular Prime Directive so much. (I don't really buy the 'potential future' argument - every future is just a potential future given the way time travel appears to work in Trek canon.)

I'll probably talk about this stuff again as it relates to stuff like Dark Frontier, down the line.

Hm. Yeah, not much more from me for the moment. I'll mull it over and see if anything else comes to mind. Mostly, this was just a good hour of Trek, IMO.
posted by mordax at 4:51 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


and with Kes undergoing the "morilogium"

We've had one elogium, yes. But what about more elogium?

(sorry)
posted by traveler_ at 6:32 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's not entirely fair to compare this series with TNG and DS9, but we've unmistakably set that precedent, and it's unavoidable, I think. And in that spirit, while I can recognize that this is at minimum an above-average VOY outing, and probably Kes's best episode, it doesn't quite match up with the similar episodes TNG: "All Good Things" and DS9: "The Visitor," where (this is key IMO) they took the time to make sure that the timey-wimey hook MADE A LICK OF FRICKIN' SENSE, and as a result, the relationshipey-wimey stuff had more impact.

Instead, the temporal stuff in this one has always struck me as much more abstract and metaphorical and writer-y and—I don't wanna say "space fantasy," but kind of. Like, once we get to the womb shot, you realize "I've been needlessly straining myself trying to generate a Treknobabble-based plausible explanation here; never mind." Which would be fine for lots of sci-fi franchises. But it's not a direction I like to see Trek go into. Maybe this makes me a reactionary purist.

But that said, thanks to strong acting (and no small amount of meta-knowledge on rewatch, what with Kes doomed to actually go away soon), "Before and After" does probably make the top three of VOY "What-If" episodes, despite facing stiff competition. (Isn't it interesting that perhaps the most consistently good VOY episode type is the one where the show speculates about what might have been?)

Also mentioned above, the Temporal Prime Directive stuff.

Mind, this fits: Janeway has never cared about this much. She kept the Doctor's mobile emitter despite that being a clear cut case of polluting the timeline (and possibly destroying the future it came from outright). It's just, again, pretty noticeable from a crew that like to go on about the regular Prime Directive so much. (I don't really buy the 'potential future' argument - every future is just a potential future given the way time travel appears to work in Trek canon.)


Here's a justifying semi-retcon: In TNG: "Parallels" (an episode that was pivotal to the unified theory of Trek time travel that I previously shared here), the existence of an effectively infinite number of separate timelines based on what "could have happened" (from the POV of one's "home" timeline) is put forth by Data and Geordi as a "theory." Now, by the end of that episode, it seems to have been pretty well confirmed, but it's reasonable to suppose that some Starfleet officers thereafter would still not quite grok the idea that a potential future is a REAL future, but just for people in a separate quantum reality whom Our Heroes will never meet absent a more-unusual-than-usual anomaly. *AND* it's likewise reasonable to suppose that Janeway is one such Starfleet officer, since Janeway has told us how much she hates time-travel stuff and has actively avoided it—which suggests she actively avoided LEARNING about it, which, um, okay (maybe pick somebody else to go into the Badlands? ANYway).

And it's reasonable to further surmise that the rest of Voyager's crew pretty much takes their cues w/r/t Temporal Prime Directive adherence from their captain, since the ship does not really seem to have a dedicated science officer. (MA lists Samantha Wildman as its ONLY named science officer, in fact, and she's a xenobiologist.)

So given all of that, I suppose the multiverse is lucky that things didn't turn out even more temporally fucked-up than they did (in "Endgame") as a result of Voyager going off on its own to the Borg's home quadrant.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:41 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I don't think Janeway necessarily avoided learning about it, there was an early episode where she and B'Elanna sort of taunt Paris over his lack of knowledge of temporal mechanics. It may be that she just realizes that any potential future being a real future means an almost infinite numbers of possibilities, where everything is already accounted for, so she should then just act as she feels necessary since that's all she can control and the other possibilities will exist somewhere anyway. (Or maybe I just like her willful disregard towards it all and am just making excuses for the behavior since I approve.)
posted by gusottertrout at 5:32 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


It may be that she just realizes that any potential future being a real future means an almost infinite numbers of possibilities, where everything is already accounted for, so she should then just act as she feels necessary since that's all she can control and the other possibilities will exist somewhere anyway. (Or maybe I just like her willful disregard towards it all and am just making excuses for the behavior since I approve.)

Oh, for sure; one can easily fall into analysis paralysis when factoring in other quantum timelines. And I do think maybe Picard should've done some intervention on Beardo "The Borg Is Everywhere" Riker's behalf, Temporal Prime Directive be damned; i.e., it's possible to hew too closely to passivity when faced with temporal shenanigans. But it's another thing to INVITE them the way Janeway does with the mobile emitter, the way everybody does here by asking Kes for future* details, and especially the way Janeway does in the series finale.

* = That said, asking about the Krenim may be justifiable insofar as they are a time-manipulating opponent. To put it another way, the Federation has seemed perfectly OK with suspending the Prime Directive when dealing with enemy groups who don't have one and freely violate its spirit.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:08 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Heh. Yeah, there is definitely room for argument on the subject and I'm sure it'll come up again as some of Voyager's most notable epsiodes have either temporal or alternative reality sorts of structures involved, but, dang, I really liked the finale and Janeways's choices there. The mobile emitter, not as much, but the doctor seems attached to it, so I guess keeping him happy is worth some trouble, as we'll also repeatedly see going forward.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:08 AM on August 8


Trek series have an annoying habit of giving us a glimpse of what might have been, right before ripping that vision out of our grasp.

Enterprise gave us "In a Mirror, Darkly", a two part episode that gave us an incredible level of continuity between ENT and TOS, answering a decades-old question from an episode of the original series. Right after the series had been cancelled.

There are other examples, but this one's second on my personal list... for reasons I can't talk about yet because [spoilers]. But at the same time, this episode actually gave us a tiny glimpse of what Voyager became (and didn't become,) and when it aired, that little window into the future was wonderful. Perhaps the show we had all been waiting for was possible after all.

When the show first began, we have a very basic premise, and a promise. The premise: they're stranded on the other side of the galaxy with no hope of support or a way to return home. The promise: we are about to see what happens when one lone Federation Starship winds up in unknown territory and its crew tries to survive the unknowable and dangerous, without a lifeline. How will they cope? TOS and TNG did this to some extent but never to this extreme.

To Boldly Go.

That was Voyager's promise. To Boldly Go into the Unknown. The crew wasn't going to be stuck on a space station. This wouldn't be a show about Federation politics. Viewers would be returned to the good old days of adventure in Trek. Sometimes, we got that. Sometimes, we got "Mr. Kim, GET THAT CHEESE TO SICKBAY."

So I liked this episode a lot. From a technical standpoint, the writers and director created a pretty complicated story with multiple, disconnected vignettes that made an engrossing hour of television. Jennifer Lien shines here, through (as mentioned above) the aging makeup. A lesser actor would have let the makeup do most of the work -- we've seen that time and time again on this series and others. But her intensity and skills turn what could have been a pedestrian outing into something far better. And thank goodness, because without her superb work this episode could have been a muddled, boring disaster.

Throughout its first three seasons, Voyager didn't focus its attention on Lien as often as it could have, and as far as I'm concerned this was her best outing. Frankly, it was one of the best episodes of the season. In addition to Lien's performance, I think the key to this episode's success was in the details. Overt and subtle but always realistic, they convince us that we're really seeing Kes time jump. future!Voyager, has become a generational ship, thanks to Kes. We see people have been given promotions. Certain cast members have joined Starfleet. Neelix! Wearing a starfleet uniform! The doctor has hair! And names.

But most of all, the tone of this episode surprised me the first time I saw it. As dark as many DS9 episodes. We see the battered ship's hull during the year of hell. We see B'Elana and Janeway are killed during a Krenim attack. An offhand mention that The Doctor's program was offline for over a year. And Tom saying, "When she died I felt like I wanted to die."

There's a bleakness to this episode that Stargate Universe would eventually be able to capture. You're stranded on the other end of the galaxy/universe far from known space, with no support from home. There will be casualties. There will be problems. Things you just can't handwave and fix. Issues you can't ignore. Your tech isn't perfect or infallible and neither are you. The first few episodes of SGU were entitled "Air", "Darkness", "Light" and "Water." They were all about the basics that crew needed to obtain, in order to survive. It made for compelling television. We all can relate. They need air and water. By contrast, Voyager didn't go to such extremes. Throughout its first three seasons, Voyager didn't manage to capture the reality of their situation effectively, and that always made the show a bit unrealistic. Most of the time, the problems they faced were inconvenient but not insurmountable. Now we're shown a very different perspective. Faced with an enemy with devastating weapons that can't be defeated or reasoned with, the Captain and chief engineer are killed. The ship battered. What happens next? Doesn't look good.

But there was a suspense and realism to this episode that I loved. A sense that we were getting the Show We Had Been Promised. And a realization that the writers were thinking more than just episodically. They had Ideas and a Vision for Voyager that were better than what had come before.
posted by zarq at 8:42 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Here's a justifying semi-retcon

I've actually posited that one in prior threads, yeah.

The problem is: Starfleet still has time police, both in the current frame and in Braxton's era, and the notion that this (completely reasonable) theory is false is basically the entire premise of Enterprise. So even if it's true, the Federation never acts like it is, making their actions here questionable from a policy position. That's why I find it to be a disconnect: they're hypocritical in the application of Prime Directive stuff here, even though the Temporal one is likely unnecessary.

I do agree that this is a space where Janeway is the one making the call, although I'd expect Tuvok to push back on anything that breaches protocol too much.

There's a bleakness to this episode that Stargate Universe would eventually be able to capture.

It's nice to see another SGU fan. There were, what, like a dozen of us? Man, I miss that show.

But there was a suspense and realism to this episode that I loved. A sense that we were getting the Show We Had Been Promised. And a realization that the writers were thinking more than just episodically. They had Ideas and a Vision for Voyager that were better than what had come before.

This is well said.
posted by mordax at 9:59 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


It's nice to see another SGU fan. There were, what, like a dozen of us? Man, I miss that show.

I was genuinely angry when they cancelled it. Such a great show.

I started fanfare recaps last year but couldn't keep up with them. Have been thinking very hard about picking them up again.
posted by zarq at 10:09 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I'd actually love to go over the entire Stargate franchise at some point down the line. I feel like SG-1 was the real spiritual successor to ST:TOS, although Voyager is closer than I remember now that we're getting to the good stuff.
posted by mordax at 10:14 AM on August 8


Decided I'm going to pick up SGU again. I think I may just aim for basic posts rather than researched link-fests. Will figure out a schedule.
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I'm not on Prime right now, but I'll follow along one way or the other. I think basic posts are a good idea. :)
posted by mordax at 6:08 PM on August 8


I have not gotten into any of the Stargate series at all (I did watch the original movie, which was as cheesy as any Emmerich/Devlin cheesefest), but I'd be up for giving it a shot.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:28 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


A fine episode. Obviously it plays to Lien's strengths and has lots of nice moments for Kes, but I also liked how they handled Paris in this one, and thought McNeill did quite well with what he was given. Neelix is sneaky good in this one too, not a lot of screentime, but there are some nice touches regarding his past relationship with Kes and just general Neelixy attitude that added some depth to the episode and his character.

With Paris, I had no problem in his having a relationship with Kes since it is shown at its most intense when Kes is aged and Paris still young, the flip side to the Paris hitting on young Kes concept, which could seem easily skeevy. Highlighting their relationship from the other extreme makes it work much better and lends more believability to Paris having deeper feelings about their relationship. It, along with Harry marrying Kes and Tom's daughter, and the rapid aging of the son he has with her, also is a better example of what the Ocampan existence is like than anything they've done with it previously. Looking at a totally alien existence like that is something the show(s) could stand to do more of.

The scenes we get of Kes' life, both on Voyager and before, are the kinds of low key sci-fi ideas that too often get set aside for threats and anomalies. Just seeing an emotionally normal, but alien, existence without it being weighed as some potential threat or use to the ship's crew is interesting in itself. In this aspect, it is something like the TNG Inner Light episode, but with the focus on some of the inherent differences of alien perspective and physiology instead of difference in circumstance and society. This episode may not have the same emotional force as Inner Light in some ways, since that episode was about loss that can't be regained, while this one is about possibilities that won't be explored, so the weight of the emotions at play don't match, but I think this is of roughly the same merit as that episode, and in hindsight knowing it's signalling the end of Kes' time on the ship meaningful in its own way.

Aside from Kes and Tom, even counting the doctor's new hair and name, most of the crew doesn't really change that much over the time shown in the episode. I mean Janeway and B'Elanna die, which I grant is about as big a change as there is, but the personalities or affects don't really shift much. With time spent on the two "new" crew members, Kes' daughter and grandson, there isn't a lot of chances to show much change I suppose, but they did give Neelix a bit of an opportunity to play variations on his character. He's insecure in his early meeting with Janeway asking to join the crew, where he keeps apologizing and interrupting Kes as she tries to explain her circumstance, and as a more confident security officer sure of his position aboard the ship and able to accept Kes' relationship with Paris, even if he's not entirely sanguine about it. With the line "It's good to see that old lung is still working, Kessie.", being perhaps some note of his reflecting on their former relationship and signalling that lightly. It's a nice touch, not overbearing, but not something forgotten, nod to continuity and a sign of character in a moment.

Neelix's exchange with Tuvok, at the end of the episode, where Tuvok notes it's only a potential future, when Neelix's assignment to security officer is mentioned, and Neelix replying that's true, he could be Chief of security, was a fun touch. Like the earlier exchanges touching on Tom and Harry's relationship, it adds something to Neelix and Tuvok in a lightly amusing way.

The doctor has a couple amusing moments reflecting on his own merits, of course, and Mulgrew and Dawson do well enough with what little they have, but I was a bit disappointed with Beltran. His reactions didn't quite fit the moment in several scenes, even though the general tone of the ship under his command seemed solid. It isn't a big thing, but it's something I noticed in earlier episodes as well, where Beltran sometimes doesn't seem comfortable as a subsidiary character in the moment supporting the primary story focus. It's something Wang and Lien do quite well, but it isn't Beltran's strength and throws me just a tiny bit when I see it.

That's about it for nitpicking though. I guess I might also wonder about the plot device that has Kes continuing to regress in time, only to be saved back in the midpoint of her journey by the doctor's continued administration of antichronitons, but I actually kind of liked that even as I'm not sure what it suggests entirely. (Incidentally, while I get the chronitons winning particle of the week honors dominating the episode as they do, I'm giving my vote to the scrappy underdog antichronitons for the honor, just for being even sillier than their positive buddy particles.)

Speaking of all that, the regression in time bit is a fun device and left vague enough to keep me wondering about it a bit. Thinking about how the crew reacted going forward to the things Kes mentions to them going backward, we don't get to see that and it wasn't even entirely clear what happens to Kes as she regresses. Does she simply forget the backwards directed timeline and stay in her body in that present with no memory or does she entirely disappear as it seems happens in sickbay behind the forcefield, which makes the doctor's saving her harder to figure? It's not something that troubles me about the mechanics of the episode really, I just think they're interesting possibilities to consider would they work with the idea again sometime and want to explore it further.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:37 AM on August 10


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