Star Trek: Voyager: Relativity   Rewatch 
February 8, 2018 3:03 AM - Season 5, Episode 24 - Subscribe

As she tours her new command—the U.S.S. Voyager—while it's still in drydock, Captain Kathryn Janeway experiences a series of inexplicable anomalies, even before setting out for the Badlands. It seems she'd better … take care.

Time slows to a crawl when Memory Alpha is having fun:

- This was the last of five Star Trek: Voyager episodes that Nick Sagan, story editor for the series' fifth season, was involved in writing. He previously worked on "In the Flesh", "Gravity", "Course: Oblivion", and "Juggernaut". In his capacity as story writer and teleplay co-writer here, Nick Sagan found this to be an enjoyable episode to write. He later reminisced, "I think that might have been the easiest one I worked on, because the goal is simply to have fun. With the others I felt a lot of different loyalties to character this, character that. For some reason that one came together very quickly, and it was such a joy to write because we were just trying to please ourselves."

- Executive Producer Brannon Braga did a lot of uncredited rewriting on the episode.

- This is the first and only episode to feature the actual Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards. The fleet yards were seen previously in a picture in TNG: "Parallels" and as a holographic simulation in TNG: "Booby Trap". One aspect of this installment that was changed was its depiction of the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards; the episode's script originally called for only a simple shot of a lone Voyager in drydock at Utopia Planitia. Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz noted, "One ship, one drydock, and that was it." The reasoning why the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards was depicted as more extensive than the script suggested was that the visual effects artists from Foundation Imaging were extremely excited about visualizing the elaborate shots that open this episode. "As fans who were working on the show, we couldn't bear to be this close to seeing the shipyards and not go all the way," reflected Adam Lebowitz. "So, in our own time, we created the entire shipyard and took rough drafts of the shots we had in mind to VFX supervisor Ron Moore and producer Peter Lauritson. Luckily, they were very receptive. It may have only amounted to two shots in the final episode, but they were an absolute labor of love for all of us. The half-constructed ships looked great (thanks to the hard work of Koji Kuramura), and the image of Mars you see in the final sequence is made from a satellite photo of the real Utopia Planitia, courtesy of the folks at NASA. In fact, the whole time we were working on the episode, we thought it was a shame that the people at home would only see this stuff on blurry TV screens, and not in the high-resolution glory we had created them in."

- Not having been a science fiction fan prior to her work on Star Trek: Voyager, Seven of Nine actress Jeri Ryan found this time travel episode's script difficult to follow. "It was a challenge just keeping the time frames straight," she admitted.

- Jeri Ryan also found it humorously coincidental that, in this outing, her character wears the disguise of a Starfleet uniform, a fact the actress described as "actually very funny." She continued, "I had just done an online chat three or four days before this script came up. As they always do, one of the fans had asked me when we were going to see Seven in a Starfleet uniform, and I said, 'Well, never, because she's not Starfleet, of course.' Then bam, I get a call from wardrobe two days later saying, 'We need you to come in for a fitting because you are in a Starfleet uniform for the next episode.

- According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (pp. 312 & 314), the bridge of the Relativity was a redress of the USS Enterprise-E bridge, with interior design elements from the Enterprise-E and Voyager.

- The 29th century phaser that Seven of Nine uses against Braxton is of the same type seen in possession of Henry Starling's assistant Dunbar in the third season episode "Future's End" during the phaser fight outside the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles in 1996.

- The thrombic modulator is seen again in this episode, having first been seen in "Message in a Bottle" when The Doctor didn't know what it was.

- Another prop reused in this episode is the triangular device that Lieutenant Ducane places on Seven of Nine's arm before transporting her to the USS Relativity. It was used in "Tattoo" as a universal translator between one of the Sky Spirits and Chakotay.

- This episode features the return of not only Captain Braxton, whose previous appearances were in the two-parter "Future's End" and "Future's End, Part II", but also Lieutenant Joe Carey, who was last seen in Season 1's "State of Flux". However, Carey's scenes here take place before Voyager is lost in the Delta Quadrant. He returns in VOY: "Fury", but his scenes in that episode also take place in the past. He is not seen again in the present (namely, 2378) until VOY: "Friendship One", in which he is killed.

- Braxton mentions that Janeway and Voyager are involved in three major temporal events. The first is clearly a reference to "Future's End" while the second is a more subtle reference to "Timeless". The third is never clearly explained but one can speculate that it refers to the events of either "Endgame", "Time and Again", the two-parter "Year of Hell" and "Year of Hell, Part II", or this episode itself.

- Braxton claims to remember being stranded in the 20th century in this episode, despite having claimed to Janeway at the conclusion of "Future's End" that he "never experienced that timeline."

- In "Caretaker", Janeway says she needs Tom Paris to help locate Maquis bases. However, in this episode, she says she wants him because of his piloting skills, even though he never flew the ship once in the Badlands. However, it's possible she intended to put him at the helm later in the mission.

- This episode features the fifth time Voyager is completely destroyed. "Relativity" also includes the eighth of many times Janeway "dies" in the series – on this occasion, when Braxton succeeds in destroying Voyager in 2375.

- According to the stardates, the 2375 portions of this episode take place at about the same time as DS9: "The Dogs of War", which was originally broadcast two weeks later.

- Ultimately, Brannon Braga was extremely pleased with this installment. "'Relativity' is a time travel romp," he declared. "It's an incredibly fast-paced, mind-bending, fun, time travel story. [The identity of the bomber] will be a real shocker."

"So, in a way, the Federation owes its existence to the Borg."
"You're welcome."

- Ducane and Seven of Nine

"We have a saying in our line of work: There's no time like the past."

- Captain Braxton, to Seven of Nine

"Is this a part of the tour?"

- Captain Janeway, during the tour of USS Voyager back in time while Seven of Nine chases Captain Braxton

Poster's Log:
Well, this one is great fun—not as fun as "Future's End," but then, it'd be hard to top that for fun. It's really too bad they didn't bring Jennifer Lien back for some of the past sequences.

Back when I was developing my Unified Theory of Trek Time Travel, this was one of the episodes I picked apart, and IIRC I was never able to retcon it enough to make its time-travel elements hold together logically, no matter what model of time travel I tried to make it stick to. (But I doubt I spent that much time on it, because our TTRPG Trek timeline diverged from canon prior to this episode, following a chain of events beginning with Voyager's loss in "Timeless.") I found that the episode's main interesting takeaway, worldbuilding-wise, was the transporter reintegration process, so blithely referenced here but actually even more terrifying in its implications than typical transporter use.

I must take exception to Braga's remark about the identity of the bomber being a "real shocker." Um, no, it wasn't. (Though recasting his character may have thrown some viewers off the scent.)

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
We might remember Nu-Braxton (Bruce McGill) from Animal House, MacGyver, Babylon 5, CSI, a couple of Law & Orders, and funnily enough, Quantum Leap.

Bernd at Ex Astris Scientia notes: "It is not an error that Voyager is shown at Utopia Planitia, although the dedication plaque indicates it was launched from Earth Station McKinley. It is possible that the ship only received additional equipment at Utopia Planitia. This must have happened a brief time prior to the beginning of 'Caretaker', since Janeway made the proposal to get Paris for the job."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We might remember Nu-Braxton (Bruce McGill) from Animal House, MacGyver, Babylon 5, CSI, a couple of Law & Orders, and funnily enough, Quantum Leap.
Not Timecop?
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 6:11 AM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

This one is great (if more than a bit existentially disturbing) for their solution to Seven dying: simply retrieving her from the timeline a little bit before the last time they did so. I'd swear that I've seen or read of this being used elsewhere, but can't remember where right now. I also wonder about that "reintegration" process. (One possibility that occurred to me was that Dukane could have asked Braxton what they were going to do with Seven's body, and Braxton reaches over to a control; Seven's body shimmers and disappears, and Braxton looks at Dukane. "Body?") I'd also put this episode in the category of "giving the fans what they want, for one episode"; you want more continuity and a realistic picture of what Voyager would look like after a few years in the DQ, so you get "Year of Hell", and you want Seven in a regular uniform, so you get this. (It would have been a good excuse to get rid of the catsuit permanently, but oh well.)

It was also pretty funny to see Braxton's dismay at being pinched for futurecrime; he was himself a great example of the Pogo Paradox--as per my previous comment in "Future's End", he's probably already got problems at the beginning of that episode. And, in general, I always enjoy seeing a future/alternate version of the Federation.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:15 AM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Kazon are back! Hurrah!

Oh, drat, they aren't featured, no Jal Cullah, no Seska, not even Jonas, just the ships. That's no fun at all. Oh well, it's not a bad episode for Mulgrew/Janeway, Ryan gets some fun, and I like Jay Karnes Duncane so that's for the good and I enjoyed the explanation given Janeway about her need to capture a third Braxton, so I liked the episode, but it is one that didn't really get better on rewatch, other than the "Try to avoid time travel" line Duncane says to Janeway at the end.

It's by no means a bad episode, but it's amusement is more in the episode plotting than the character or overall series story development, so, ironically?, its pleasure is in its immediacy rather than longer lasting effect that my favorite episodes have. I appreciate them digging back into past episodes for the story, but wish something more came of it all in the end.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:17 AM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not Timecop?

Not here. You want the next timeline along.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:40 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Particle of the Week: Chronitons!
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Missions like this are downright routine in Star Trek Online. It reminds me of the entire Delta Rising arc. Also, I've flown the same class of ship as the Relativity, and it's the very finest in pay-to-win. (Got one for my SO and her DPS went up by a factor of maybe 5 without any additional investment in new gear.)

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: -1.
* Crew: 134.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 10. Given the tech involved, Braxton definitely does not count.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* This is a great demonstration of my notion of 'pacing helps the willing suspension of disbelief.'

The plot is basically held together on the force of 'fun things are happening all the time.' It doesn't make a lick of sense, but I'm happy to give it a pass because each individual scene is great.

* Re: earlier stuff:

This one is great (if more than a bit existentially disturbing) for their solution to Seven dying: simply retrieving her from the timeline a little bit before the last time they did so. I'd swear that I've seen or read of this being used elsewhere, but can't remember where right now

Gog did something like this to Superman in DC comics one time: killed him, traveled 24 hours earlier, killed earlier him, rinse, repeat until the afterlife was full of alternate timeline Superman souls because the DC afterlife is confusing.

I'll have to mull this over a little more. Been very distracted with my very first post to MetaTalk.

Also, I resolved the whole 'how do we talk about multiple shows in the same thread issue' in the discussion for 11:59, if anybody missed it way down at the bottom.
posted by mordax at 10:44 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Coming back to this for a minute, because I feel bad only giving such a neat episode like ten minutes of mulling over.

I have sometimes talked about my notion that going further into Star Trek's future would probably involve time travel at least as much as space travel, and possibly more. This is a somewhat contentious notion - people have disagreed in the past, noting that Braxton and his people are from five centuries later than Voyager, (currently the most advanced timeframe seen on screen for the Federation). My counterargument is that time travel has been reasonably accessible to dedicated individuals since roughly TOS, (and Starfleet even already has an official Temporal Investigations division), meaning the shift from 'space' to 'time' could occur as soon as 'right after Voyager.'

Whenever that shift in the story occurs, the show isn't really Star Trek anymore, at least not the way we grew up with it, and Relativity - while fun - illustrates why it's not really sustainable.

Most of Trek is about going someplace new. It's in the opening narration in TOS: they're supposed to 'seek out new life and new civilizations,' and to boldly go where no one has gone before. It didn't always succeed in that, or even try for that kind of story, but that was always the overall mission statement. Roughly paraphrased, it's 'let's go to space and make friends with the weird aliens we meet.'

Time travel stories fundamentally change the focus: the only way a time travel story can work is by being self-referential. In order for us to understand time changing, we have to be familiar with the original timeline. The more familiar we are with the original timeline and events, the less time the writers need to spend getting us up to speed, and the more elaborate the time shenanigans may become with that runtime instead.

Relativity is ideal for doing complicated stuff with time because it only references places and people that we need minimal acclimation to understand: Utopia Planetia's never been on the screen before, but we all know what it is and roughly how it works, and so on.

So Star Trek that becomes too much about time travel becomes less about new things and more about endless navel gazing, and I do think this at least could play a role in the franchise's refusal to look forward. (And even if it doesn't, maybe it should.)

And to be clear, none of this is meant to impugn this story - I love this story. It's more to point out that this is icing, not cake, and the franchise could never be composed predominantly of icing without losing some of what made it special in the first place.

Anyway, that's my obligatory 'overthink an episode of Voyager' thing. ;)
posted by mordax at 8:20 AM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

So Star Trek that becomes too much about time travel becomes less about new things and more about endless navel gazing, and I do think this at least could play a role in the franchise's refusal to look forward.

This is going to become more relevant with Enterprise, both because it's a prequel series and because the central conflict of the series is supposed to be the Temporal Cold War, in which different factions of the future try to influence the events of the 22nd century to bend the future of Earth and Starfleet in their favor. Which, interestingly, both encourages the navel-gazing (because what's at risk is all of Trek continuity, if one faction succeeds in changing the future) and mitigates against it (because, of course, the ability to change continuity ultimately means that the show isn't bound by it). Of course, the show does very little with the TCW and ultimately abandons it, but the potential was there, and would be at least partially realized by the '09 reboot, which spun off an alternate continuity.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:14 AM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I actually like episodes like this in the same way I like a good Doctor Who episode. When it's fun enough that you only examine the plot superficially, a plot that only makes sense superficially is fine. The problem is when writers try to do something that requires the viewer to think and they ignore the continuity and other issues that thinking about is likely to bring up issues.
posted by wierdo at 2:30 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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