In which Voyager finds her way home, Janeway is bad at temporal mechanics, and the information age is the side effect of paradox.
It’s night on Earth, in the High Sierras, 1967. A tattooed man is out camping and listening to the radio when it starts shorting out. The calm night is disrupted by an atmospheric event, which sounds a lot like a spacecraft making a rough and unscheduled landing. Roll straight to credits.
And out to Janeway practicing her tennis swing indoors. We can take this as an indication that the ship is, for once, running at spec, with no crisies to demand management. That certainly won’t last – they immediately detect an anomaly, which a small ship exits. It has one human occupant, Federation, which opens fire on Voyager with some strange weapon that cuts through their defenses like butter and starts dissolving the ship. They manage to counter it, and finally the captain hails them. He identifies himself as Braxton, of the Federation Timeship Aeon. He’s here from the 29th century to destroy Voyager before it causes a temporal explosion that destroys the solar system five hundred years in the future. This call for Janeway to sacrifice her ship goes unmet, and in the fight both ships are disabled and Voyager falls into the temporal rift.
So… bets on the problem being directly caused by Braxton’s attempt to undo the problem? Anyone?
Once everyone makes it back to their feet, the crew of Voyager find themselves in orbit around Earth. If I were going to guess why Starfleet isn’t responding, I would have to guess it’s because they arrived in 1967. It’s a shame nobody remembers the really simple maneuver that can move a ship around in time. Oh, I was wrong, they’re in 1996, not ’67. And since there are surveillance capabilities, they stay high up, and find a subspace reading coming from Los Angeles. Since apparently everything Kirk did regarding time travel is code-word classified, they’re going to have to seek out the source of the transmission in hopes that it’s Braxton. Janeway takes Tom along because he’s a historical expert.
They land on… probably Venice Beach, wearing more-or-less appropriate garb. They’re within a hundred meters or so of the subspace signal, and go looking and chatting about this little bubble of stability in Earth’s history – just before the Eugenics Wars ravaged Earth. Paris and Tuvok are in one team, Janeway and Chakotay another, and it’s them who find a withered old man dumpster-diving who’s the source of the subspace readings.
Away in an observatory, Sarah Silverman is working on SETI observations and picks up a signal that stands out. So if you wanted to do yourself a favor, go either watch Contact or We Are Miracles. But if you’re still watching this, you’ll see Sarah Silverman in a vaguely-TOS-looking shirt detect Voyager in orbit, and a tech company CEO reject an integrated circuit design in an office full of toys. He is Henry Starling, and he gets a call from Rain Robinson over at the observatory, and has been looking out for a specific signal frequency by way of funding said observatory. For now they’re keeping things on the Down-Low, but as Henry Starling pours himself a drink, we see he has the same tattoo as the camper from the teaser, and it all starts to come together.
The shortest line between these points is that Starling found the timeship, managed to reverse-engineer enough technology to get a head start in the tech boom (or possibly start the tech boom himself) and start searching for the follow-up he knew was coming, from talking with Braxton or reading the ship’s logs.
Rain Robinson is not content to wait, however, and sends a hello up to Voyager, where Torres is trying to direct repairs. All they have is emergency transporters, with a 10km range. They receive a universal hello using Pioneer-plaque imagery.
The away team are following the guy who’s pretty clearly Braxton, when Harry lets them know about the signal and the problems with the ship. Janeway sends Paris and Tuvok off to the observatory, while she and Chakotay keep tailing Old Man Braxton, who recognizes her. He’s gone a bit crazy and blames them for the circumstances because they didn’t let themselves get killed. It is in this state of mind that he attempts to explain temporal paradox and Novikov loops. As it turns out, over the 30 years, he realized that the person who stole his timeship, Henry Starling, will pilot it into the future and blow up the solar system. And even after figuring all this out, Braxton still recommends against interfering, because pieces of Voyager were still found in the wreckage, so they must be involved. And he’s kind of right – if Janeway ordered Voyager to head off to a remote corner of the Federation that won’t be explored until around the time of their mission, and plant a data cache, theproblem would be solved twice. Once when Braxton doesn’t find bits of Voyager in the explosion and therefore chooses a different sequence of events to avert the disaster, and once when the Federation finds the data cache outlining the temporal paradox and how to avoid it. In either case, this loop isn’t stable as long as Janeway stops for a minute and processes the advice she’s getting.
It’s about now that Braxton is ‘harassed’ by some beat cops, breaking up the conversation and giving Janeway an excuse to ignore said advice and go to Chronowerx, Starling’s company, whose logo is the 29th-century Starfleet insignia, because the dude has no chill. And speaking of ‘no chill’ he orders his security guy to go kill Rain for emailing a colleague, and to get ready to kill the Voyager crew in case they’ve come for him.
Paris and Tuvok are also at the observatory. They find her data and interpret it, and are tracking the warp emissions specifically. Rain catches them snooping, and Tom can’t help but flirt with her over fourier transforms and B horror movies, but Tuvok pulls off both a cockblock and a clamjam after downloading her data and breaking her computer. Her suspicion saves her, since Starling’s goon is after her with his Dissolver Ray and the make a timely getaway.
Neelix and Kes have been monitoring the media and have discovered Soap Operas. Apparently non-interactive narratives (that aren’t books) aren’t a thing anymore, or at least not for young whippersnappers like Harry.
Chakotay and Janeway are breaking into Chronowerx, with the expedient of the technological marvel known as the tricorder. Apparently it can hack magnetic locks. But Janeway can’t type. Suggesting that text input via single-character entry is basically dead in the 24th century. We’ve seen Jake’s stylus device, which I still want to know the operation of. Since we established last scene that the tricorder can interface with 90’s operating systems, they go about hacking in. Meanwhile, Tom is trying the ‘we’re secret agents’ line on Rain, and doing his best to keep her from making a scene. She’s very observant, and pouty, and probably my favorite part of the episode after the temporal mechanics that Janeway keeps fouling up.
They make a discovery – that the entire computer age is a result of this temporal paradox, and they also find that Starling is repairing the ship – building the global tech level up to the point where the parts will exist to repair it. And Chakotay is better at temporal mechanics than Janeway, who always swore she’d never get ‘caught up in one of these paradoxes.’ It’s about now that Starling walks in, with his goon, to monologue.
They try to talk him out of launching, using their foreknowledge. While trying to upload data, Starling stops them, threatens Janeway, and forces Harry to make the decision to rescue them from ten kilometers up. Janeway commends the decision, and they try to beam the ship up. Somehow Starling manages to use the transporter as a link to download data from Voyager‘s computer and take control, and steals 20% of their database. Including the Doctor. And they’ve also made appearance in plain view, thus changing the timeline.
To be continued…