Star Trek: Voyager: Year of Hell, Part II   Rewatch 
September 25, 2017 6:34 AM - Season 4, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Goodbye my love/Maybe for forever/Goodbye my love/The tide waits for me/Who knows when we shall meet again/If ever/But time/Keeps flowing like a river (on and on)/To the sea/To the sea/Till it's gone forever/Gone forever/Gone forevermore

Memory Alpha is offensive. Fortunately, taste is irrelevant:

- Originally, episode co-writer Brannon Braga did not want the "Year of Hell" story arc to end in a second part such as this, but with a fourth episode. He later remembered, "I was pushing to make it four parts, but ended up with two."

- Brannon Braga came up with the solution of basing the rest of the story (especially the character of Annorax) on Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (and especially the persona of Captain Nemo). Joe Menosky recollected, "Brannon came in one morning and said, 'It's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. This guy [Annorax] is Nemo.' That was all it took. We sat down, watched Twenty Thousand Leagues. The character of Nemo was just awesome, because he's a bad guy but he's also a hero. He's evil, but he's also tortured, and all of that informed the character. All we had was a guy who was changing the timeline to benefit his race. But as soon as you had Nemo [...] you had a guy who was trying to not just restore the timeline, but to bring back his wife who was lost to him through his own arrogance. That gave us the whole second episode." For his part, Braga described Annorax as "a villain that we modeled after Captain Nemo." An in-joke that plays on this link between Annorax and Nemo is when Tom Paris, in this episode, refers to Annorax as "Captain Nemo" while conversing with Chakotay.

- Despite the viability of this influence, the writers were still not entirely certain about how to draw the episode to a conclusion. "We had at least half a dozen different endings, and reshot endings," Joe Menosky recalled. "Brannon wanted to keep the ship wrecked for the entire season, and he didn't want to end with a reset. The studio [namely, Paramount Pictures] didn't want to do that. [Executive producer] Rick Berman didn't want to do that. So we didn't do that. I wanted at least a couple of people to know what had happened. We actually wrote this ending even though we didn't shoot it, where time is reset, the weapon is gone; we know what has happened to us through some complication I can't even remember. When we meet up with the next Krenim, Chakotay asks offhand, 'Have you got a colony called Kyana Prime?' And the guy says, 'Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about.' The idea was that time had in fact in some ways punished Annorax. Everything was reset except that. That was denied him, so it was this great, final, tragic moment. That was written and never shot because Rick said it was too complicated, and he was right. I can't even remember the tortured reasoning we had so that some of us could remember. Rick said, 'Just plow Voyager into the weapon ship, and reset the timeline, and nobody remembers.' That was the simplest solution." At the time, however, Menosky regretted the ending that was chosen. "I wasn't completely satisfied with it," he remembered.

- This episode is similar to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "Cause and Effect" and "Yesterday's Enterprise", the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Visionary" and the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Twilight", in that catastrophic events occur (or are about to occur, in the case of "Visionary"), and then a time-change returns everything back to normal.

- This episode is the only one in the seven-year run of Voyager wherein Janeway is relieved of command (albeit momentarily) by The Doctor, on the grounds that she is suffering from Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

"This vessel is more than a weapon. It's a museum of lost histories."

- Annorax

"You've been at this for 200 years, Annorax. What makes you think you're ever going to succeed?"
"What makes you think Voyager will ever reach Earth? The odds against you are astronomical. Yet you keep trying."

- Chakotay and Annorax

"Time's up!"

- Janeway's last words before ramming Voyager into the weapon ship

Poster's Log:

Lots of good discussion in the thread for the first part, plus of course everyone's distracted by Disco Trek, so I'll keep this relatively brief. The episode centers around Annorax and his centuries-long and ultimately doomed quest to bring his wife back, and Chakotay's and Paris' conflicts with him and each other as Voyager struggles on in its shambolic state. I get the connections with Captain Nemo ("Annorax" is obviously a reworking of Arronax, one of the characters in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), but there's also aspects of Charles Foster Kane, The Flying Dutchman, and really, just about any story about anyone who's become a prisoner of their own regrets and ceaselessly pursues some sort of atonement or restoration of a lost state of being that they'll never achieve. Annorax provides an excellent example of the difficulty, if not futility, of making changes while accounting for all, or at least the more significant, of the resulting knock-on/butterfly effects. And yet, he goes on, whipsawing not just the civilizations that he retcons out of existence but the Krenim Empire itself between glory and insignificance in his ceaseless quest. Some people have questioned whether Chakotay would be the one to succumb to Stockholm syndrome, but I think that there's something there, given that many of the Maquis who have a big romantic streak in their emotional makeup--Eddington certainly did--and Tom Paris is more likely to be the questioning skeptic. Plus, you know, Tom wants to get back to B'Elanna.

As for Voyager, well, it seems a little futile to try to keep it going if you're only going to have seven crew on board, since it would seem to take way more than that just to daily jury-rig the ship's systems. When B'Elanna keeps mentioning the busted nacelle, I keep thinking, yeah, who's going to fix it? It can't be a one-woman job. But it does lend Janeway's Last Stand a bit of extra poignance. And, gotta be blunt here, I'm always down for a ramming-speed scene.

Poster's Log, supplemental: Decided to stay on the prog rock groove, and left the lyrics as they were, as they seem to match the mood of Annorax chasing after his lost love.
posted by Halloween Jack (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I"m curious as to how Braga saw them extending this to four episodes. Drawing out Chakotay's conversion to Annorax's thinking would have been a plus certainly, but I wonder what the plan was for Voyager and the rest of the crew. It'd make the most sense I think to have planned it from the beginning for four episodes and drawn out Voyager's decline and the like, but it wasn't clear if that was the argument or not from the quotes.

Anyway, shortening of Chakotay's arc aside, this episode is a good one all around. The entire cast gets some fine moments, the character writing is sharp and on point, with some lovely interactions among crew members like Tuvok and Seven, the doctor and Janeway, and individual use of Harry and Neelix showing meaningful use. The actions on the Krenim ship is also sharp, Paris and Chakotay's interactions with Annorax, Obrist, and each other captured parts of their personalities suggested previously but not explored in this manner.

Paris' recalcitrant attitude serves him in a positive fashion, Chakotay's ready empathy for others leads him to error, Obrist and Annorax are given more depth than common for encountered characters, Neelix's attitude is put to good use and Janeway's balance of positivity and negation is pushed to the forefront in an interesting, but not wholly resolved way. Plus she gets to destroy Voyager! Whee!

While the ending idea of having some memory of the encounter with the tragic irony of Kyana Prime still missing would have been fine, if they could have made it make sense, I'm not sure this one is that much worse since there is something of a bitter irony of two hundred years being wasted in pursuit of something destroying one's own vessel/obsession would have fixed. Is a happy ending for Annorax the appropriate one? Who knows? But I kind of like it given the circumstances the network demanded. (Even though, yeah, it doesn't really make sense that we see Annorax as if he's returned to his life in the same time frame as Voyager's journey since that should be 200 years earlier, but no one said we aren't looking back in time to see him, so I'll roll with that as the excuse.)

(I am surprised that they didn't restore the timeline and have Voyager just encounter Kyana Prime unknowingly, scan it and find no life forms or something since they could signal the failure to the audience without the crew knowing anything about it if they really wanted to go that route, but whatevs.)

I probably enjoyed these two episodes more on rewatch than I did the first time just for better appreciating the character interactions, so the story remains a top level one for the show and the franchise in my book.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:19 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think that the idea may have originally been to have a season-long arc, as somewhere I remember seeing something about doing that with "Future's End"--keeping them in 20th-century LA for an entire season--before that got scaled back to a four-parter, then finally a two-parter. In other words, make the Year of Hell last for an entire year. Of course, that's what they ended up doing with the Xindi/Expanse arc in Enterprise, and you can judge for yourself how well that turned out. Per our discussion in the last episode, it seems that, even though I give Braga a lot of grief (in no small part because of the way he puts things), he did seem to have larger ambitions for the show than he was allowed to put into practice.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:45 AM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Per our discussion in the last episode, it seems that, even though I give Braga a lot of grief (in no small part because of the way he puts things), he did seem to have larger ambitions for the show than he was allowed to put into practice.

Braga is an excellent Ideas Guy. Execution? Not always so much, but I get the feeling the execution falters because of executive meddling.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:57 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

With a couple more episodes to play with, you might do a mostly unrelated episode first with major consequences/damage to Voyager, before it becomes obvious that a major reset is possible. You get to use that weight a little more. On the flip side, in retrospect it might feel cheap to do something like that, especially if the ad campaign played it up too much.

Maybe throw in some weird inconsistencies that most people will gloss over but in retrospect are evidence of the timeline getting messed with.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:59 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Still chronitons.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Kyana Prime is a recurring point in the Star Trek Online metaplot, and is the last bastion of Krenim safety in the middle of a dangerous conflict in the arc when you have to ally with them. (I feel like it gets a lot of play largely because it's the only Krenim location to actually get named in Year of Hell.)

Ongoing Counts: The Big Red Button thing still counts, but everything else is back to square one.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17.
* Shuttles: Down 8.
* Crew: 141.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* This episode offers some unintentional insight into Chakotay, IMO.

So, I have long beaten the drum of 'the Maquis should've taken some time to integrate into the crew.' Like, they definitely shouldn't have been given command codes and uniforms and treated like they went to Starfleet Academy until maybe S2. I, uh, actually still think all that.

However, this episode sheds some light into why Chakotay gets along so well with Janeway because his relationship with Annorax is a total mirror of it, minus bathtubs and ambiguous romantic efforts. When placed completely at another captain's mercy, he plays along.

I'm honestly not sure what to make of that. Like... is it smart? Is it weak? I don't know. But it is consistent, and I don't think it's intentional on the part of the writers - I certainly missed it the first time around. It's my feeling they couldn't see Tom Paris playing ball, (the point about B'Ellana is well taken), so they handed it to Chakotay.

Either way, it's an interesting/weird insight into the character.

* This episode also offers us good insight into Paris.

Paris' recalcitrant attitude serves him in a positive fashion


I posited last time that Tom Paris gets actual character development over the course of the show, and this episode shows it off. When we met him, he was, frankly, a loser. He was willing to fight for anybody who could pay him, he didn't care about anybody else and so on.

Here we have a redeemed Paris standing up to Annorax, refusing to buy various rationalizations of genocide and being clever enough to engage in social engineering with Obrist. Best of all, we've seen him develop this way on screen: none of this is out of left field, this is totally the Paris we've come to expect after watching him for several years' worth of episodes. A lesser show would've pinned this on his romance with B'Ellana, but this show correctly keeps them apart until he's this good a guy - he didn't become this way for her, they got together because he became this guy. I really appreciate that.

Tom Paris will probably never be my favorite Voyager character - too much competition from B'Ellana and Tuvok, frankly - but I like him a whole lot more this time around, and this episode plays a part there.

Credit where it's due.

* We learn more about Janeway.

Unfortunately, I don't feel like any of this is good: Janeway's decisions are portrayed as highly irrational the whole way through, and the ending reinforces that. Here we have her:

- Threatening to deactivate the Doctor to retain her position.

- Ignoring a temporary removal from active duty, a court martial offense.

- Ignoring Seven's extremely reasonable assessment of the situation.

- The end reaffirms that they could've just gone around Krenim space trivially instead of punching through. Janeway's attitude toward the Krenim assailants in Part 1 was flip and arrogant, and this just makes it look worse.

- Her decision to split the crew makes very little sense to me, as mentioned by Jack in the post itself. Fixing a borked nacelle cannot be a one person job, and is probably not even a seven person job. That sounds like dry dock ideally, full maintenance team under dire circumstances.

She comes across as stubborn, obsessive and generally not a great captain here, and I'm always sad when I feel that way because I really love Mulgrew in the role.

* Other character beats are good.

I don't like Tuvok's dressing down of Seven - I think he should've explained why the chain of command must be followed even when the captain is wrong. However, I did like them being such fast friends, and the tone and nature of their relationship continued to feel spot-on to me.

Neelix was fine. The Doctor was fine. As mentioned above, Annorax and Obrist got some really good character development here.

Dramatically, most of the hour is pretty good.

* Disappointed in them glossing over getting allies.

I actually do think this could've sustained a three or four parter, unlike Future's End. The one thing I would've liked to see was a battered Voyager with a PTSD crew convincing the Nihydron and so on to come with them against Annorax. I feel like there were some stories to tell there. So I guess this is a rare time when I'm gonna side with Brannon Braga, and man is that a weird thing for me to say.

* I feel the ending was weak.

Janeway blowing up his ship with an action movie quip felt out of place in all the grimndark. Us cutting to Annorax without a nod to '200 years earlier' felt sloppy. The crew just going around in the final timeline made me facepalm, and made Janeway look terrible like I said above.

All in all, I wasn't really happy with the last couple minutes at all, even though I broadly agree with the decision to end this by ditching temporal shields and ramming.

Basically, my overall analysis is that this is a strong story apart from the last few minutes, which undercut its place in 'Best Voyager' for me. It's up there, but I actually prefer Scorpion and Unity, for instance. (Like, Year of Hell would be in my top 10, but not my top 5.)

plus of course everyone's distracted by Disco Trek

Looks like I'm'a be too slow on the draw to catch those posts, (the second thread literally went up while I was still annotating my post in the first thread), but I'll stick with it for the full season and pick it up if people stop posting threads so fast.
posted by mordax at 11:39 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, and to avoid abusing edit:
Of course, that's what they ended up doing with the Xindi/Expanse arc in Enterprise, and you can judge for yourself how well that turned out.

Apt comparison. I actually think Enterprise picked up a bit during that arc, and Voyager could have via similar stuff. It would've made a total reset button that much more frustrating though - I guess if they were going to erase everything, keeping this shorter makes more sense to avoid negating too much screen time.
posted by mordax at 11:45 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

That's an excellent point about Chakotay. He's quick to get comfortable in almost any situation he's in, save for the dealings with his father and how that led to him joining the Maquis in a round-a-bout way.

With Tuvok, I took his discussion with Seven to be less about him being upset with her and more about his concern for Janeway given how Seven sort of calls him out on the illogic of it all at the end and he can't exactly disagree. I mean Vulcans don't get upset or concerned, but...

I suppose too it could be figured that the reset made it much easier to cross the now claimed as disputed Krenim space since the Krenim dude they met was less aggro about the whole thing and the reset changed the scale of their empire back to some indefinite size likely more along the lines of when Annorax started his time war, plus 200 years or not, who knows?

I didn't mind Janeway's semi-quip at the end in itself, since its a kind of low key dark joke she might make, but the way they drew attention to the line in the filming definitely felt more action movie than it should have. So I agree, but'll blame the director for underlining it instead.

I also agree they could have dragged this story line out more, a whole season might have been tough barring some major rewrites on the idea, but could have been fun if those rewrites included more timeline shenanigans occurring that change the state of Voyager and all else a couple more times before they can figure out a response, that could fix some of the problems with Voyager being almost a complete wreck or in figuring out how they avoid Annorax for a whole season without getting silly. (It's a problem shows like Buffy never really handled all that well either. Big Bad on the warpath, but while that happens, here's a couple episodes about Buffy's dating life. Huh?) But, yeah, once they knew they were going to have to erase everything, then keeping it shorter was the better way to go since erasing something like a whole season would be annoying as, well, Hell.)
posted by gusottertrout at 12:02 PM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I suppose too it could be figured that the reset made it much easier to cross the now claimed as disputed Krenim space since the Krenim dude they met was less aggro about the whole thing and the reset changed the scale of their empire back to some indefinite size likely more along the lines of when Annorax started his time war, plus 200 years or not, who knows?

I promise the writers don't, mostly. I'm more charitable with shows when they try - Year of Hell is actually getting a lot of bonus good will from me for creating good drama, but I'm not convinced any of the writers can read a map IRL. :)

So I agree, but'll blame the director for underlining it instead.

Yeah, you're probably right.

I also agree they could have dragged this story line out more, a whole season might have been tough barring some major rewrites on the idea, but could have been fun if those rewrites included more timeline shenanigans occurring that change the state of Voyager and all else a couple more times before they can figure out a response, that could fix some of the problems with Voyager being almost a complete wreck or in figuring out how they avoid Annorax for a whole season without getting silly.

What might have been fun is if Voyager had temporal shielding so they were aware of incursions - negotiations flipping around them and stuff - and they're faced with 'do we disable shields and hope things get better, or do we keep the disabled ship so we can plan ahead?'

(It's a problem shows like Buffy never really handled all that well either. Big Bad on the warpath, but while that happens, here's a couple episodes about Buffy's dating life. Huh?)

Heh. Yeah. That did get jarring on Buffy.

I actually think Enterprise did a fair job pacing this stuff, but the Xindi arc was more complicated than Year of Hell, (#NotAllXindi, for instance), so they had more to reveal over time. This is somewhat hampered by being a game of cat and mouse between exactly two ships.
posted by mordax at 12:30 PM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, there's a lot to like in this episode (the Tuvok hug, the Chakotay/Paris drama on Annorax's ship), but there's enough that feels rushed or shoehorned (the allies for Voyager, the overall conflict's resolution) that I'm going to stick with my word from the previous thread, "perfunctory." A four-episode Krenim arc would've been too much, but a trilogy might have been just right, especially for the purpose of making sure that the trials and tribulations of the Voyager crew had the right degree of gut-punch to them. Might've also helped make Janeway's actions seem less unhinged.

And even though the Total Reset Button approach still rankles, I really like the closing "restored timeline" scene with Annorax. It feels real because it's played well, it's an elegant bookend to Annorax's story, and it's redemptive in a way that is always refreshing to see for a villain.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:48 PM on September 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, couple further thoughts before we move on tomorrow, (eleventh hour, I know):

* I wonder if Chakotay's social chameleon tendencies are why he's such a thug with the Maquis.

In Learning Curve, I complained about Chakotay acting violently toward the poorly adjusted Maquis crewmen. It seemed out of character, but maybe this is actually internally consistent: he might treat the Maquis in a violent, thuggish way because that's how he thinks he best fits in.

* Maybe 'time' really was punishing Annorax.

We know there are timecops in the Federation - it's a theme that's cropped up all over the franchise, including driving Future's End, most of Enterprise and so on. Maybe Annorax's 'wrestling with time' was actually the subtle sabotage of even more advanced timecops, trying to deal with him without tipping their hand and coming into open conflict.

Anyway. Just some thoughts I had while eating right now.
posted by mordax at 7:48 PM on September 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, further thought, re: Chakotay - in this episode, he does threaten to beat up Tom if Tom doesn't respect the chain of command.

(Honestly, the more I think about it, the more 'Chakotay as a social chameleon' makes a ton of sense to me, at least tonight.)
posted by mordax at 8:10 PM on September 26, 2017

I have a lot to say, but will probably have to break it into several comments.

These are, hands down, my favorite two episodes of the series. I've never minded the reset button. In fact, the first episode telegraphs that one will be required, once they blinded Tuvok. There was no way the show would allow such an injury to a major character to become part of the story continuity. More's the pity, because not only would a disabled main, credited character have been a first for Trek, but it would also have given us a much darker and more realistic viewpoint into the lives of the ship's crew. Star Trek shows rarely kill off main characters, and when they do it's usually only done in a movie. I tend to think that they suffer from it. Whereas shows like Battlestar Galactica were comfortable killing off characters (Roslin. Airlock. 'nuff said.) and/or putting them through trials that deeply affected their character arcs, Star Trek stories have always been a little more idealistic. A little more superficial.

Which is fine, too. The audience knows what to expect when they turn on Trek. It's the Orville experience. Lighthearted stories whose episodic tension won't really carry over from week to week, from season to season.

But here we have a pair of episodes that throws that out the window. People die. People are maimed. People make really stupid decisions. The chain of command is shredded and thrown out. And Janeway does what she usually does: charge forward like a bull in a china shop. And that comes back to bite her and her crew and her ship squarely in the buttocks. We get to see how the crew handles itself when they're pushed to and over the edge. Will they hang together? Turn on each other? Give up? Keep fighting?

In Janeway's case, she kept pushing forward, right into catastrophe.

It was mentioned upthread, but this was an entirely avoidable situation. When challenged by the first Krenim ship, she could have backed down or tried diplomacy. Instead, she inexplicably decided to take Voyager into Krenim space. And look what happened. She lost the crew, the ship and finally herself.

"Year of Hell" is a self-contained, two part story in which we see what happens when the crew is faced with an endless, Kobayashi Maru -- the no-win scenario. We see the ship take a pounding. Worse than the Enterprise in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. No Trek before or since has ever shown the same thing done to any other ship. Certainly not to a ship that had it's name on the show. An entire deck explodes. In another scene, the ship goes to warp and her hull plating starts to fly off from the stress. I vividly remember thinking "HOLY SHIT" when I first watched that scene, years ago.

And what happens to the ship is mirrored in the ship's crew.


There's a single scene in this episode that I can't watch without tearing up.

Janeway: "Tuvok, I can hear your objections already. I am not leaving."
Tuvok: "Given Voyager's damaged state, the probability of your surviving an armed conflict is marginal."
Janeway: "Oh, I know the odds. But I have to stay. Voyager's done too much for us."
Tuvok: "Curious. I have never understood the human compulsion to emotionally bond with inanimate objects. This vessel has done nothing. It is an assemblage of bulkheads, conduits, tritanium. Nothing more."
Janeway: "Oh, you're wrong. It's much more than that. This ship has been our home. It's kept us together. It's been part of our family. As illogical as this might sound, I feel as close to Voyager as I do to any other member of my crew. It's carried us, Tuvok. Even nurtured us. And right now it needs one of us."
Tuvok [reluctantly]: "I respect your decision. Live long and prosper, Captain."
(Tuvok raises his hand in the Vulcan salute. Janeway reaches up and strokes his face.]
Janeway: Same to you, old friend.
[She then hugs Tuvok. And he gently reciprocates and hugs her back. They show her face, filled with emotion at the gesture and then she hugs him more tightly and lets go. ]

We could write essays and essays about this scene.

In Trek, the ship (or in the case of DS9, the station) has always been the character we take for granted. It's always part of every episode. In fact, it's the setting for most episodes. It's home for our heroes -- on Voyager that means a place where (initially) two very different factions came together to forge a path for home. And who were later joined by a diverse group of alien passengers. Some captains have anthropomorphized their ships. Kirk did. Sisko did once or twice. And in this two parter, Janeway asks Voyager to be kind to her when she races into a flame-filled deflector control to save them all from an asteroid field. It's safe to say that some of us in the audience anthropomorphize the ship ourselves. When they die, we feel a sense of loss.

The show's called Star Trek: Voyager for a reason. Watching her lose battle after battle until she's just a complete and utter wreck is profoundly sad to watch.

That final battle! A ship sideswipes Voyager! A nacelle comes off as Voyager rams the time ship! Incredible.

Tuvok makes his case. The ship has done nothing. It's nothing more than parts. But Janeway's love for and devotion to her ship wins the argument.

Even though it really was never stated outright on ST:Voyager, fans of Trek know that Vulcans are telepathic and are a little standoffish. They really don't like to be touched and aren't physically demonstrative. Watching Janeway affectionately touch his face and then hug him was a brilliant piece of stagecraft and smoothly organic to the story. They're old friends and we know that. But it was emphasized to us profoundly in that moment. And the non-demonstrative, non-emotional Tuvok? Hugs her back. It's a wonderfully poignant and heartbreaking surprise. She knows she's never going to see him again. He knows it too. So much is conveyed in that final, wordless embrace.


This is probably Kurtwood Smith's best Trek performance, and by god does he do a masterful job with Annorax. That could have been a superficial portrayal of a depthless, bland Trek villain -- Smith could have spent two hours just raging at the universe's unfairness and chewing the scenery. Instead he gave us a fully realized tragic character who is utterly believable as a man obsessed with restoring what his own creation took away from him.

Annorax: "It seemed so easy the first time. In the blink of an eye, I had changed history itself. Allowed my people to thrive again. But when I changed history a second time, I lost more than you can imagine."
Chakotay: "The colony on Kyana Prime."
Annorax: "How could you know that?"
Chakotay: "I've been studying your previous incursions. No matter how close you get to restoring the timeline, one component is always missing. Kyana Prime. Who was on that colony? Who did you lose?"
Annorax: "My wife. And with her, my future. My children, grandchildren, all erased because of me. This is all I have left of her."
[A lock of hair in the small pyramid on his desk.]
Annorax: "So many years I worked through the night while she was sleeping. How could I have known I was calculating her fate? I can't stop until I've restored Kyana Prime, and forced Time to give me back my wife!"
Chakotay: "Maybe it isn't possible.
Annorax: "When I tell you that Time has moods, a disposition to be intuited, I'm not speaking metaphorically."
Chakotay: "What do you mean?"
Annorax: "Anger is one of it's moods. Anger and the desire for retribution, vengeance. Time itself has tried to punish me for my arrogance. It has kept me from my wife, denied me my future!"

When pushed to the brink and when their very existence is at stake, both Annorax and Janeway become obsessed and intractable. They've lost their objectivity. Shades of Moby Dick. They are flip sides of the same coin, and here, neither can see past their own arrogance and obsession to avert tragedy.

In the end, Annorax is undone by his own crew. And can we just take a second to note that it wasn't that Tom or Chakotay managed to gain the upper hand? They didn't sabotage or take back the ship on their own. Obrist and the rest of the crew mutinied because they knew they were stuck in a no-win, endless scenario and had been for 200 years. They could easily have done it without Tom. He just gave them the ability to end things by getting Voyager involved. Our heroes didn't heroically wreck the Time Ship. They didn't steal the plans to the drive. They didn't hack in and shut down its temporal shielding with nothing but a medical tricorder and some moxie.

No, Tom was handed the keys by Obrist of his own free will because the crew wanted to end their endless nightmare. They don't share Annorax' obsession. It was a more satisfying and realistic way to end things -- and a lot less of a lazy choice for the writers, who could have plugged in a "TOM SAVES THE DAY" action scene in the engine room. Nicely done.
posted by zarq at 8:59 PM on September 26, 2017 [9 favorites]

Thank you for sharing, zarq! I've been looking forward to you talking about this since you mentioned it was your favorite, way back. :)
posted by mordax at 10:02 PM on September 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

That was an excellent take on the episode zarq, some interesting ideas to think about there, including the comparison between how Janeway sees Voyager and Annorax sees time, each personalizing their journeys via the means they are using to "get home" as Annorax himself mentioned as a parallel.

Something I was thinking about regarding Chakotay is how they've almost abandoned his heritage as a character reference, at least in any way close to that of the first couple of seasons. On my first viewing I remember waiting for them to have Chakotay bring up the idea of time as a circle or otherwise reference some popular concept of indigenous thinking on time, since those ideas are widespread enough for it to register with the show and make use of it in this situation. That they instead had him dive into the attempt to "fix" time is a big turnaround for the character, even as it does flow in ways mordax has been mentioning. It made me wonder if they'd toyed with the idea of having Chakotay point out to Annorax that his calculations always failed to account for his own actions in trying to control time, that he is the reason he can't restore his old life. It goes along with the scene we see at the end of the episode where Annorax puts down his calculations to go with his wife, but drives home the point to the character instead of restoring him without knowledge of where he went wrong.

The parallel between Janeway's obsessions and Annorax's is also worth thinking about some more since Janeway's drive to reach home is matched by some competing desires that are less clear. Her self destructive impulse tied to refusal to accept loss has been noted, but the extent or depth of it and how to account for it is more difficult to clarify. (Obviously inconsistencies in writing are part of that, but there is still something, like with Chakotay, that feels true to the character even if it wasn't entirely planned out.)

Janeway's choice to go through the claimed Krenim territory is one of those choices that could make sense as it fits some previous decisions to not go around when the increase in travel seemed too much, but the directness of the refusal to comply is more unusual, even if we then see she's met with the other species claiming the same area of space. Janeway has shown a somewhat cavalier attitude at times, but balancing that with the obsessiveness is more difficult since that so often hinges on her feelings of being wronged, whether ideologically or more concretely, or in some other way potentially harmed/treated unfairly. She has a strong personal sense of justice that seems to animate her decision making, but the boundaries of that are vague and seem sometimes piqued by mood rather than concretely delineated values. This has been part of her traits since the first season though so it isn't exactly off character for her, just hard to get a clear understanding of where the lines are for her.

It proves one of her strengths as well as a weakness, but both in ways that are themselves open to debate. It's fitting that Janeway too has such a strong dislike of time shenanigans, mentioning that on a number of occasions, and works with her continuing preference to largely ignore concerns over temporal directives or whatever time paradox they might encounter to force her way through. She is a fitting match for Annorax in ways that haven't even been fully explored yet but will be seen in effect later in the series. It gives these two episodes almost an added air of foreshadowing in addition to their other virtues.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:51 AM on September 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Woke up this morning and realized I had forgotten Nog and Geordi. Both of whom were disabled members of Starfleet. Geordi is even a blind Lieutenant Commander.

I looked up the TV Tropes page for the two parter. It's filled with great notes.

* A time distortion passes over the bridge; when it clears, Janeway is still standing in center frame, except the ship is now on Red Alert. This shot is taken directly from TNG’s "Yesterday’s Enterprise".
* Seven hints at the events of Star Trek: First Contact, in which the Borg also tried to remove a troublesome enemy by changing the timeline.
* Tea cup falling from the table and shattering, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

I totally missed the first and last one.

Plot Armor: Tuvok is only a few feet away from an exploding torpedo, and while he’s permanently injured, his infirmity is blindness.
SF Debris: Imagine if the torpedo had actually collided with him! It just might have killed him!

And this, which kinda blew my mind:

Retcon: "Year of Hell" was originally meant to be at the end of Season 3, but "Scorpion" was put there instead. The departure of Kes means that it's Seven who deals with the chronoton torpedo; neither is there any mention of Kes' warning about the Krenim. However these changes can be explained by the constant alterations Annorax is making to the timeline.

It would seem that this episode completely eliminates "Before and After" from the show's storyline. That episode only happened because of the chroniton radiation Kes was exposed to during the Year of Hell. Since she left the ship before that happened, she was never exposed to the radiation, "Before and After" never happened, and she was never able to tell the crew what to prepare for.

Daaaaaamn. Until this moment, I was utterly convinced that was a massive plot hole, to be explained as having taken place in an alternate timeline or something. And in fact, it was. But not in the way I'd assumed.
posted by zarq at 9:10 AM on September 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

It would seem that this episode completely eliminates "Before and After" from the show's storyline. That episode only happened because of the chroniton radiation Kes was exposed to during the Year of Hell. Since she left the ship before that happened, she was never exposed to the radiation, "Before and After" never happened, and she was never able to tell the crew what to prepare for.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:42 AM on September 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also, Jeri Ryan has some bad news for us.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:38 PM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Notes on the episode and the threads:

In doing my Duffer's Guide research, the Hollywood Reporter list gave these episodes pride of place in the series, and I must say, I was nearly entirely satisfied.

Regarding Chakotay's persistent situational adaptability, I certainly agree that it aligns with his character as depicted over the run of the show. Unfortunately, I also think it aligns -almost certainly without conscious intent on the part of the showrunners - with an older narrative trope concerning the inscrutability of Native Amrerican intent in matters of alliegance. I am deliberately avoiding the words that this older narrative trope would often utilize. I think this is a significant failure in Voyager's practice, failing its intent.

Regarding the observation in-thread concerning Tuvok's blindness, and a subsequent post noting Geordi's blindess, I must refer to a discussion I had with a dear friend, a former US Marine, a gay black man of Jamaican descent. He told me that he did not care for Star Trek because the show(s) either showed black officers in subservient roles (Uhura) or symbolically emasculated them. The conversation was pre DS9 and VOY, and he cited Geordi's blindness and Worf's cultural uncertainty as an adoptee (yes, yes, he acknowledged he perceived the ethnicity of the actor as primary) as his main evidence. Ben Sisko was both written and acted, in part, in my opinion, as a rebuttal to this valid argument. Tim Russ' Tuvok was also conceived and (mostly) written with this critique in mind.

Yet here, the writers and showrunners are given the opportunity to write these characters in extremity, and what do they do? The Native American appears to switch sides, and the black man is struck blind. This is a legitimate critique; it is disappointing.

Despite this, these episodes were very fine indeed. They were moving, surprising, affecting, and even noting the narrative failures I cite above, extremely vested in showing us the essential personhood of all the characters we see and hear speak on screen. Excellent episodes. I was continually remarking to myself how much better the two-parter was than any of the TNG movies, for example. Well done, show. You'll do even better in the future (of the franchise).
posted by mwhybark at 9:37 PM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I very much enjoyed this two-parter overall, but if I have one nit to pick with it, it's that I felt Chakotay was too slow to come around to Paris's side. After their initial "restore the timeline" vs. "foment mutiny" debate, when Chakotay tries to talk Annorax out of another genocide-inducing incursion and Annorax proceeds anyway, I think Chakotay should have immediately come around to Tom's plan. It didn't ring true to me that Chakotay would keep on with trying to restore the timeline after that. Doubly so considering Chakotay is a member of an ethnic group which itself has faced near-genocide.

I am surprised that they didn't restore the timeline and have Voyager just encounter Kyana Prime unknowingly, scan it and find no life forms or something

Except, how would they know it was called Kyana Prime, if it was even ever called that at all?

I suppose you could have worked in some unique feature, e.g., during the course of the episode Annorax reminisces about picnicking with his wife on the shore of the Oberat Ocean, with its beautiful floating diamonds; then at the end of the episode, Voyager comes across a lifeless world, but it does have these extraordinary floating diamonds on one of its oceans...
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:23 AM on June 13, 2018

I do appreciate the character notes on Chakotay offered above. The idea that he's a social chameleon is interesting, but I suspect the simpler explanation for his wild shifts in moods and motivations from one context to the next, is that Robert Beltran is not the show's strongest actor.

Really, given that we've established that Chakotay not only has a respect for the sanctity of life, but that he has the heart of an anthropologist, it's really irresponsible of the show's writers to make him so blase about the erasure of entire cultures from the timeline. Of all people, you'd expect Chakotay to be appalled by this!

Tuvok might have been an interesting character choice for some of those Krenim Time Ship scenes, come to think of it--given Vulcans' reverence for "infinite diversity in infinite combinations," it could have been interesting to put him in that setting and see his reaction to Annorax's motivations (especially given Annorax's straightforward, if self-serving, logic). However, I expect Brannon Braga et al would have been no more adept writing this aspect of his character than they were Chakotay's.
posted by duffell at 11:17 AM on March 2, 2019

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