Star Trek: Voyager: Non Sequitur   Rewatch 
March 13, 2017 7:22 AM - Season 2, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Life is apparently pretty good for a talented young Starfleet officer fresh out of the Academy: nice San Francisco apartment (small, but with a hell of a view), beautiful fiancée, promising budding career as a propulsion engineer with the Starfleet Engineering Corps, even a local barista who knows his favorite drink order by heart. Sure, he didn't get that shipboard assignment that he wanted, but given Voyager's disappearance in the Badlands with all hands missing, even that's for the best. So... what's the matter with Harry?

Memory Alpha likes its Vulcan mocha extra sweet:

- This installment originated with complaints from Kim actor Garrett Wang. He recalled, "The episode 'Non Sequitur' was the result of me going into the production office and saying, 'You know what? You guys have tortured Harry and done all of these things to him. I would like once to have a day where I'm shooting and they need a stunt double for me.' I mean, even Kes had a stunt double! I [hadn't] had anything dangerous to do [....] I went in and said, 'When is Harry gonna get the girl? When is he gonna have the action?' [Episode writer] Brannon Braga told me, 'Don't worry about it.' And he wrote an episode. I asked him to do it throughout that year and he put it all in one episode." Wang also recounted, "What happened was I came into the office with Brannon Braga and I said, 'I have to ask you something. Are you guys ever gonna plan on having Kim doing any type of action, whatsoever, just any action?' Because up until that point, every other actor on Voyager had had a stunt double. Kim hadn't had one. So I said, you know, 'It'd be great if, you know, Kim could have a scene where he's kicking some butt, you know? And maybe during one of the episodes during this year, maybe you could have Kim having a little romance, too.' 'Cause up until then, it hadn't happened. And this was a meeting at the beginning of the year that I had with him. Well, lo and behold, he threw every suggestion I had into one episode."

- The admiral who interrogates Kim was originally to be Counselor Deanna Troi. Brannon Braga recollected, "I had actually written Counselor Troi into a big scene where Kim is being interrogated. It's the admiral now, but it was Troi working for Starfleet, where she really grills Kim. But we couldn't work it out with Marina [Sirtis], so I rewrote it."

- Robert Picardo (The Doctor), Ethan Phillips (Neelix) and Jennifer Lien (Kes) do not appear in this episode. In fact, with the exceptions of Paris and Kim, none of the main cast appear in this episode until the final minute (although Janeway's voice is heard in the beginning). This is the first episode of the series in which Kes does not appear.

- Reused footage:
--The exterior footage of Starfleet Headquarters near the Golden Gate Bridge was recycled from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
--A shot of San Francisco at night with the Golden Gate Bridge is taken from the beginning of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
--When Kim returns from Marseille, France, the shot of the shuttle entering Starfleet Command is taken from the original version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, when Kirk arrives in San Francisco.
--The spacedock door was a reuse of the door of the Dyson sphere from TNG: "Relics".
--The shot of the runabout exploding is taken from the DS9 episode "Armageddon Game".

- The scenes set on the streets of San Francisco were filmed on Paramount's New York Street backlot. The regular blacktop there was painted over to represent red brick streets which were washed away after filming ended.

"Where are you going?"
"Marseille, France."
"What for?"
"I've got to see Paris."
"But you just said you were going to Marseille."

- Libby and Harry

"Excuse me... Ow! There goes my bank shot!"

- Tom Paris, as he punches a Starfleet security officer

"Anyway, I got as far as Deep Space 9, where I got into a bar fight with a Ferengi and I was thrown into the brig by a very unpleasant shapeshifter."

- Tom Paris

"Why does everyone say relax when they're about to do something terrible?"

- Harry Kim

Poster's Log:

This is another episode that I changed my mind about, for the better, upon rewatch. I remember it as one that puzzled me because Harry didn't seem more tempted to simply stay on Earth in the alternate continuity. Memory Alpha suggests that Harry went back to Voyager because Tom Paris was living the dissolute life in Marseilles, but I don't really buy that; yeah, things may not be great for Tom at the moment, but he could still pull himself together, and it's not as if the Delta Quadrant is exactly a safe place (Paris having already almost been executed for a crime that he didn't commit). (There's also the possibility that, depending on which version of time travel and parallel dimensions you go with, Harry may have simply switched places with the Harry Kim of this continuity, which means that, because of the way that he gets back to his own dimension, he may have ended up killing not only parallel-Tom but also parallel-Harry, but that possibility isn't addressed.) And Harry could rationalize staying on Earth because of the growing menace of the Dominion, which he'd have been aware of because of the events of "The Search" happening just before Voyager left for the Badlands. (MA has this episode set right at the same time as "The Way of the Warrior", in fact, so you have renewed hostilities with the Klingons on top of the Dominion threat.) Lots of perfectly rationalizable reasons for him to stay at home rather than taking such drastic measures to return to a ship that may not make it back for seventy years, or ever.

So, why does Harry go back? Because that's where his duty station is, and because he's Harry Kim. Nobody believes him (which is a little odd, that no one seems to consider for even a moment that he might be right--wacky space-time phenomena are hardly unknown in this era, especially in Starfleet--but whatever), and he's got plenty of incentives to simply go with the flow, but that's just not a Harry thing to do; he knows where he's supposed to be, and he will get back there, even if it kills him. (We know this because, in "Emanations", it did kill him, although of course he got better.) He's always going to seem a little bland because of that rock-solid conviction and the impulse to see it through, and Garrett Wang's frustration at not getting to do the fun stuff (as quoted above) and being shoehorned into the "O'Brien torture episode" mode--because the writers can't seem to think of anything to do with a regular-guy character besides fuck with him--is palpable. But I think that it's actually pretty great to have at least one character without raging family-of-origin issues. And this episode also makes more clear the reality of the Paris-Kim dynamic: although Tom prefers to think of their relationship as the world-weary cynic showing the naive young officer the ropes, the truth is that the real strength in the relationship comes from Harry, and even though regular-Tom isn't as obviously lost in the world as parallel-Tom was, I think that he's still attracted to that essential solidity in regular-Harry. (Incidentally, one of the nice details in this episode is that the real Sandrine's isn't populated with the colorful characters from the holodeck version.)

Poster's Log, supplemental: Another shuttlecraft down. And we'll see that admiral again. I find it amusing that the franchise has been to San Francisco so often that they can simply "quote" several previous appearances of the city. Nice apartment, too; good thing that they don't need money any more, eh?
posted by Halloween Jack (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If Libby seems familiar, it's because she was Worf's romantic interest in the TNG two-parter where he found the Klingon/Romulan colony. "Birthright" IIRC.

Jack, I think your reading on the Harry-Tom relationship, and on why Harry goes back, is dynamite. It makes this episode, which I've always enjoyed, even more enjoyable.

I thought Harry's "I didn't do my homework" scene in front of the brass was a wonderful deployment of Harry Must Suffer. Very apt to his character, very relatable to a Trek audience in particular, and very well acted by all involved—the brass didn't come across as assholes, just annoyed and scary.

And we'll see that admiral again.

Actually, it looks like we don't; but we do see the actor who plays him again as Admiral Hayes (warning, VOY spoilers in that second link).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:30 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Shouldn't Starfleet have a standard procedure for when an officer shows up to work one morning babbling about alternate timeline realities in the causal nexus from parallel dimensions? Or do they just consider that excuse the "dog ate my homework" of the twenty-fourth century? "Yeah, hi admiral, so Q zapped me into a quantum subdimension where I didn't have to write that stupid report, so I didn't write it, but then since he's such a rascal he brought me back here to this reality where I do have to write it, but obviously I was unable to do so prior to this meeting. Can I have an extension?"
posted by Servo5678 at 8:40 AM on March 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

One of the more amusing headcanons that I've read is that most of Starfleet tends to be involved in pretty boring and mundane duties: routine patrols and galaxy-mapping surveys, maybe some negotiating work with a random civilization whose language isn't quite 100% parseable by Federation universal translators, that sort of thing. And they all read the Enterprise's logs because they're so crazy compared to their own work; they've been spending weeks doing utterly uneventful patrols of the Neutral Zone, and in the meantime the Enterprise was grabbed by a giant green hand or overrun by tribbles.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:49 AM on March 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Shouldn't Starfleet have a standard procedure for when an officer shows up to work one morning babbling about alternate timeline realities in the causal nexus from parallel dimensions?

You'd think - and this was my biggest problem with this episode. Harry should have been able to call a 'Code Goatee' and explained his situation. And maybe he would have still been suspected of being a changeling or Maquis spy - but there should have still been some investigation as to whether or not that was the case. Maybe they suspect he's from a parallel universe but he's not showing the right signs, but had something Maquis related on him (Chakotay or B'Ellana hands him a thing for safekeeping or something). The visit to Paris in France would still be suspect. There could be a little more credulity for Harry Kim and still made this work.

It'd also work a lot better if the Maquis weren't so neutered on Voyager that 'Maquis Spy!' seemed like an actual horrible thing to be in the Federation, but at this point you could probably just assume the handling of the Maquis has caused problems with voyager in every single episode and call it a day.

Otherwise, I did enjoy the episode. Of course Harry Kim wants to go back, but the scene with his fiancee where he asks her to pretend that they haven't seen each other for months was a nice touch. Harry still wants to be home, but he needs to do his duty. And apparently visit Tom Paris, because of Stockholm syndrome or something.

This was actually the first episode where I didn't find Tom Paris completely insufferable, too. Not really sure why.

although Tom prefers to think of their relationship as the world-weary cynic showing the naive young officer the ropes, the truth is that the real strength in the relationship comes from Harry, and even though regular-Tom isn't as obviously lost in the world as parallel-Tom was, I think that he's still attracted to that essential solidity in regular-Harry. (Incidentally, one of the nice details in this episode is that the real Sandrine's isn't populated with the colorful characters from the holodeck version.)

Oh definitely - Tom Paris needs Harry Kim a lot more than Harry Kim needs Tom Paris, and Paris is the one that's following Kim around, not the other way around.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:59 AM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Absent in favor of temporal shenanigans.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The Yellowstone Runabout is available in Star Trek Online both as a flyable ship via the cash shop and a deployable combat pet on Federation carriers. The tetryon plasma maneuver they performed in the episode is the craft's signature special ability.
Ongoing Equipment Tally:
* Photon Torpedoes: 37
* Shuttles: Down 2, thanks to the one lost in this episode's accident
* Crew: 151
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: going to count this as 3 - the odds of bumping into a temporal anomaly like that seem slim to none.

* I like this one despite the plot hole.

This cracked me up:
You'd think - and this was my biggest problem with this episode. Harry should have been able to call a 'Code Goatee' and explained his situation.

I agree. I think the only explanation that makes sense is Halloween Jack's: hardly any ships encounter this sort of weirdness, and most of them do not survive it. Really, it's the only explanation that tracks with Voyager's lack of procedures for dealing with being flung across the galaxy - if that were common, there'd be protocols.

I'm willing to overlook that because I really like Harry Kim here. His reaction rings true to me, something I really sympathize with: things weren't right. A lot of people he cared about deeply - especially the guy who got his spot on Voyager, whom I think was a bigger factor than Paris - were now suffering while he got to go home because of a cosmic fluke.

Fighting to put himself back in danger and help them was absolutely heroic, and it is what I want out of Star Trek. That's the sort of behavior I want out of my utopian enlightened humans: Kim's willing to put his life on the line even if nobody would necessarily know he had, even though it would cost him everything he wanted.

Paris is pretty good here too - if he'd believed Harry right away, it would've been implausibly easy. His 'nick of time' rescue was pretty good, the rationale was believable, and Paris was in no way punchable this time around.

I also appreciated the discussion Harry had about this with Libby, although I wish it had been a little longer. Libby doesn't come across badly at all, and it's good that they addressed 'what about me' in a healthy way. The truth is that while Harry's hurting her emotionally, he might be *killing* someone else if he takes the do-over.

I also liked the Friendly Coffee Alien. That was very Trek too: the weird time guys aren't bad or experimenting on humans or whatever, they just don't know what else to do, but they're happy to help within their means. That was a nice break from antagonistic aliens or weird monsters. I got the impression that guy would've fit right in on a Starfleet ship, in another time and place.

* I'm glad they didn't get Marina Sirtis.

I like Troi. My feelings for Sirtis are similar to mine for Beltran: on TNG, I felt sorry for her because she got pigeonholed into 'this is what we think women are' in a manner similar to the whole 'this is what we think Native Americans are' with him.

That said, her ability to discern emotional states and lie detect should've made her figure out Harry was on the level pretty fast, and I suspect that's not the way they were going to play this.

* It's fun to hear about Garrett Wang backstage.

I'm glad he pushed for a Harry Kim adventure.

So yeah. This one's aces with me.
posted by mordax at 11:49 AM on March 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

There's also the possibility that, depending on which version of time travel and parallel dimensions you go with, Harry may have simply switched places with the Harry Kim of this continuity, which means that, because of the way that he gets back to his own dimension, he may have ended up killing not only parallel-Tom but also parallel-Harry, but that possibility isn't addressed.

So at the risk of triggering a tangent—a non sequitur, if you will—I'd like to present the only model of Trek time travel that makes any sense to me; the one that I based in part on actual "research," which is to say, closely looking at canonical Trek time-travel stories and reading a couple of books about the scientific theories behind parallel universes; and the model I have used in my tabletop Star Trek RPG campaigns. Think of it as a "modified BttF2" scheme, where going back in time basically always causes a new parallel universe to come into being; this is how some scientists think time travel would inevitably work if it were possible to make it work. But for Trek, it needs a tweak, as I learned when one of our campaigns shifted from Starfleet-focused to Department of Temporal Investigations-focused. This is what I wrote for the relevant section (which has an in-universe POV) of my campaigns' "resource document." I don't think I've posted this in a previous Trek thread—at least, I sure hope not, because *wall of text incoming*.

The following information represents the UFP Department of Temporal Investigations' best understanding of temporal mechanics as of the late 24th century. Not all of what follows is taught to new recruits at DTI, and even less of it is made known to Starfleet captains. To most laypersons, DTI prefers to maintain the fiction that there is only one timeline, and it must not be tampered with. (It is hoped that this practice reduces temporal violations, and thereby the odds of catastrophic spacetime accidents—not to mention DTI's workload.)

The Butterfly Effect
This aspect of chaos theory—named after the phenomenon of a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil and thereby causing changed weather patterns in Texas—is used in temporal mechanics to refer to changing the past. Any temporal incursion that involves manipulating matter in the past, no matter how minutely or insignificantly, "creates" a new timeline. (Ray Bradbury accurately foresaw this phenomenon in his 1952 short story, "A Sound of Thunder.")

Initially, DTI researchers either dismissed the butterfly effect—claiming that much larger changes to the timeline had demonstrably been made with no discernable change to the future—or despaired that, if true, the past had never actually been changed by individuals from their own universe (their own quantum frequency), since each incursion into the past spun off into a new parallel timeline. This could only mean that (for example) the
Enterprise crew that defeated the Borg attempts to stop the Phoenix's launch had come from a different timeline entirely—and more problematically, that every agent sent into the past would never return from their missions from their original HQ's perspective.

Experiments proved this latter supposition wrong; agents did return, and Picard and his crew still had the same quantum signature as the DTI observers. Yet the butterfly effect could not be entirely dismissed, due to available empirical evidence suggesting very minute changes had had significant long-range repercussions. The answer to the apparent paradox lay in the quantum merging theory.

The Quantum Merging Theory
Special agents are trained to understand DTI's current explanation for the butterfly effect existing simultaneously with the ability to change the past in a single timeline at all. This explanation—quantum merging theory—states that, following an incursion into the past, the new timeline will have a very similar quantum frequency to the original if the changes to the timeline are relatively minor. The difference in quantum frequencies is directly proportional to the severity of timeline changes; so, for example, a traveller detonating a gravimetric device to prevent Earth's very formation creates a timeline with a significantly higher quantum frequency differential than a traveller sneezing in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in 10,000 B.C.

Quantum merging is the theoretical phenomenon of a second timeline "drifting" back into the first and adopting its quantum frequency, rather like two objects being attracted by gravity, or two rivers joining into one if their courses are close enough, and parallel, along sufficient distance. Merging supposedly takes place if the differential between two timelines' quantum frequencies immediately following the incursion is so small as to be nearly equivalent. The smaller the differential, the sooner quantum merging takes place; likewise, the more centuries one waits for time to play itself out, the greater the likelihood of quantum merging becomes. In localized instances (such as Chief Miles O'Brien's repeated time-jumping during a Romulan visit to Deep Space 9), quantum merging appears to have taken place within hours or minutes.

DTI maintains that this is the most effective available explanation for the temporal phenomena known to the Federation. Significantly, this theory accounts for seemingly major changes to the timeline—such as the
Enterprise crew's interactions with Zephram Cochrane in 2063—resulting in no serious ramifications hundreds of years later. Temporal physicists posit that one could prevent the birth of an ancient Earth warlord who ruled millions and possibly find the 24th century identical to how one left it; opponents argue too many successive generations of Terrans would be dependent on that warlord to ever allow the timelines to merge. Some proponents of the quantum merging theory even argue that all timelines are gradually merging into one, even those of highly divergent histories from our own, though exactly how far into the future this "ultimate merge" would take place is pure conjecture.

*pushes glasses up nose* So as you might guess, I sometimes have trouble taking seriously stories where Parallel-Character sacrifices himself so that Prime-Universe-Character can have a better life as a result. It somehow feels less sci-fi and more It's a Wonderful Life. But, whatever, it made for a good story in the case of this episode.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:09 PM on March 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

Shouldn't Starfleet have a standard procedure for when an officer shows up to work one morning babbling about alternate timeline realities in the causal nexus from parallel dimensions?

You'd think

They don't have simpler procedures, why have that one? I think it got to season three of TNG before I asked a friend "Why don't they just have the ship computer, say, tell someone when a crew member's life signs just disappear unexpectedly?" Because all the damned time there's be some incidence of senior staff saying "Computer, where is Officer Soandso?" and the Computer says "Officer Soandso is no longer on the Enterprise." Well shit, computer, this seems like the sort of thing you might want to update us on.
posted by phearlez at 12:13 PM on March 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

"Officer Soandso did the thing where he took his combadge off and thinks that that makes him invisible. Luckily, this ship has sensors that can hear a tribble fart three sectors over, so we know he's playing hooky in the holodeck."
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:23 PM on March 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, I'm reminded of this, from The Bad Guys Win.
posted by mordax at 1:51 PM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I found this episode to be kind of a slog to get through. Especially compared to Projections. I felt like there was too much time spent on the minutia of Harry's everyday life/non-Voyager characters; Libby was fine I guess, but Harry's shuttlecraft co-creator guy was actively irritating. Maybe if the stakes had been higher at the beginning? By the time we got to the alien cafe-guy's explanation I had zoned out too much to care.

I did appreciate the bed-head they gave Harry for the opening scene though, that was pretty adorable.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:04 PM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Amusing discussion so far. I love the "Code Goatee" and it should definitely be taken up by Starfleet as a special threat notice. I thought it might be a touch off for Harry not to try to explain his situation to the Admiral immediately in the meeting about his shuttle craft design, since that seems like something Harry would do given his respect for authority in normal circumstance.

This episode, for me, is the one most harmed by being watched as part of a shorter duration binge. I first saw it after going through the first season fairly rapidly, so by the time I'd reached this episode the show still felt newer than it would had I watched it the course of nine months or so as it would have originally aired. I still liked the episode even watching it in that fashion, but with more time with the show and Harry as a character, it's even better. Maybe that's just the effect of seeing it after everything else that happens and getting a better feel for the show, but whatever the case, I really enjoy how they handle Harry and his alternative existence in this episode as it really fits him well as a study.

Garrett Wang isn't an actor who I'd think of as having lot's of range or anything, but he's just so damn natural in front of the camera, not really forcing any reactions or trying to do too much that it gives all the relationships a nice natural feel, something that isn't always the case with Trek. It serves as a nice base for what a Starfleet on Earth show might work like in some ways, on that all Trek channel we've mooted. I also really like the low key nature of "Cosimo" the coffee alien. It's good to have some "threats" like this, which aren't really external conflict driven.

McNeill and Wang work well together in most of the scenes they share in the series, their personalities balance well both as actors and characters. That kind of comradery was the essence of TOS, so seeing some of it in Voyager too is a good mark for the series to reach. It isn't the only example of it, but it's the most long lasting one for the show I think.

Braga did a fine job with Libby and Lasca, making them seem reasonable matches for Harry in the life he might have led, and it helps provide a quick understanding of what that life may have been like. It is, in its low key way, a really solidly written episode. I also wondered a bit why Harry didn't seek out his mom and dad early on, as it seems like that would be a relationship he'd turn to, but then at the same time not looking them up might fit too since it could be the sort of thing he'd avoid to keep focused on his situation, going along the same lines as no romance until he tells Janeway about the Sikarian teleportion device back in the Prime Factors episode. As he says to Libby, he is a guy who once he makes up his mind about something he can't let it go. So it does likely fit more than I thought at first blush. (That scene with Harry and Libby where he talks about needing to get back, isn't the strongest in part because they both do push a little harder on the emotions than suits them, but it still works, so no real complaints.)

I somehow really like how trusting Starfleet is even after they start to suspect Harry might be a Maquis spy or otherwise a person of interest. It is a good example of Roddenberryism at work, where the more utopian influence actually feels about right to me.

Hey, maybe that is the secret Starfleet protocol for Code Goatee moments. I'm imagining now that they have some class at the academy, like Emergency Exertive Response Training, where they teach cadets techniques in evasion and escape, without telling them it's meant to train them in overcoming Starfleet's own lax security measures, so that when some big time anomalylike moment creeps up, they can be assured real Starfleet crew members will find ways to get free and fix the situation themselves, thus avoiding the need for any sort of difficult truth assessments and decision making on Starfleet's part. I mean that's what always seems to happen in the shows, so I'm just gonna assumed that's been their contingency plan all along.

That line by Tom about life on Voyager sounding a lot better than anything he has on Earth is a nice little entry into his character and an interesting counterpoint to Harry's situation. It's a nice suggestive touch.

All in all, I think it's the kind of episode that doesn't stand out as really bold or special in a lot of ways, but really support the show well and add a lot more to it than it might seem based on first impression.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Libby was such a meh character, 1990s Girlfriend Model A-1. Makes him breakfast then doesn't really pay attention to what he's saying and gets irritated, then leaves. Their final conversation was so "but what about our relationship, Otto?"

"Where are you going?"
"Marseille, France."
"What for?"
"I've got to see Paris."
"But you just said you were going to Marseille."

The actors looked ashamed for having to say this. I can't believe it made it out of the writers' room.

"Code Goatee" is a great term and I will start using it immediately. (I'm also rewatching DS9 and the other day one of my kids walked in during a scene with Sisco, who is in his goatee era, and asked if it was a parallel universe. No, just a goatee. But then we decided the goatee was actually from the parallel universe or was possibly a changeling.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:52 AM on January 11

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